The author of the Tony Award winner The History Boys, Alan Bennett is one of Britains best-loved literary voices. With The Uncommon Reader, he brings us a playful homage to the written word, imagining a world in which literature becomes a subversive bridge between powerbrokers and commoners. By turns cheeky and charming, the novella features the Queen herself as its protagonist. When her yapping corgis lead her to a mobile library, Her Majesty develops a new obsession with reading. She finds herself devouring works by a tantalizing range of authors, from the Brontë sisters to Jean Genet. With a young member of the palace kitchen staff guiding her choices, its not long before the Queen begins to develop a new perspective on the world - one that alarms her closest advisers and tempts her to make bold new decisions. Brimming with the mischievous wit that has garnered acclaim for Bennett on both sides of the Atlantic, The Uncommon Reader is a delightful celebration of books and writers, and the readers who sustain them.
The Uncommon Reader
At Windsor it was the evening of the state banquet and as the president of France took his place beside Her Majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and through into the Waterloo Chamber.
Now that I have you to myself, said the Queen, smiling to left and right as they glided through the glittering throng, Ive been longing to ask you about the writer Jean Genet.
Ah, said the president. Oui.
The Marseillaise and the national anthem made for a pause in the proceedings, but when they had taken their seats Her Majesty turned to the president and resumed.
Homosexual and jailbird, was he nevertheless as bad as he was painted? Or, more to the point, and she took up her soup spoon, was he as good?
Unbriefed on the subject of the glabrous playwright and novelist, the president looked wildly about for his minister of culture. ...
It is immaterial whether in real life the Queen is an avid reader or not (one is told she's not) - her perceived character is merely the foil through which Bennett can poke some heartfelt fun and take the reader on a Queen's-eye whistle-stop tour through the best and worst of English literature.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (765 words).
Author and actor Alan Bennett
was born in Armley in Leeds,
Yorkshire in 1934. He attended
Leeds Modern School and learned
Russian at the Joint Services
School for Linguists during his
National Service, during which
he attended Cambridge
University. After this, he
applied for a scholarship to
Oxford University, from which he
graduated with a first-class
degree in History.
In 1960, after some time teaching and studying at Oxford, Bennett, along with Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller, and Peter Cook, ...
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