BookBrowse Reviews The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Uncommon Reader

A Novella

by Alan Bennett

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett X
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2007, 128 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2008, 128 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A delightful celebration of books and writers, and the readers who sustain them

Author and actor Alan Bennett has a long list of credits to his name. The youngest generation might know him as the lugubrious voice of Winnie-The-Pooh and friends in the BBC audio recordings from the 1990s; the next generation up are likely to know him as the playwright of The Madness of George III, or the more recent The History Boys (which won six Tonys including Best Play); and the generation above may admit to being old enough to have seen him perform with Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller in Beyond The Fringe (see sidebar).

The Uncommon Reader is not an insiders look into the life of the person best known as the Queen of England but rather an opportunity for Bennett to play around with the caricature of the Queen, familiar to most of us from comedy sketches and news reels. If that is the case, one might ask what distinguishes The Uncommon Reader from any old late night comedy show? The answer is there's simply no comparison - Bennett is one of the great satirists of the English language and, now in his 70s, has honed his craft to perfection, developing a style uniquely his own. It is immaterial whether in real life the Queen is an avid reader or not (one is told she is 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.

Whatever themes an eager reviewer might be able to extrapolate from The Uncommon Reader, the bottom line is that it's really about the laughs; but if themes are sought, they can be found loud and clear. There is Bennett's "savagely Swiftian indignation against stupidity, Philistinism and arrogance in public places [which offers] a passionate argument for the civilizing power of art" (The London Times). Also, through his humane picture of this royal icon, Bennett gently asks us to question why so many of us are in thrall to "royals" (and by extension, to anyone who inhabits a famous body), when they are, let's face it, just regular, flawed individuals, like the rest of us? All this in a compact, always entertaining 128 pages.

Rated by BookBrowse members as one of your top 4 books of last year, The Uncommon Reader, is an uncommonly good read.

A brief video interview with Alan Bennett about The History Boys.

This review was originally published in September 2007, and has been updated for the September 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Courting Mr. Lincoln
    Courting Mr. Lincoln
    by Louis Bayard
    19 out of 21 of our First Impression Reviewers rated Louis Bayard's latest novel, Courting Mr. ...
  • Book Jacket
    Transcription
    by Kate Atkinson
    Over her two-decade-plus career, Kate Atkinson has reinvented herself as a writer several times by ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhalation
    Exhalation
    by Ted Chiang
    Exhalation is an assemblage of nine short stories and novellas written by Ted Chiang, a computer ...
  • Book Jacket: Disappearing Earth
    Disappearing Earth
    by Julia Phillips
    On the remote peninsula of Kamchatka—tucked away on the far eastern corner of Russia and ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Guest Book
    by Sarah Blake

    "An American epic in the truest sense…"
    Entertainment Weekly
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Women Rowing North
    by Mary Pipher

    The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of Reviving Ophelia.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Her Kind of Case
by Jeanne Winer

A highly-recommended emotion-filled legal drama with three starred reviews!

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Miracle Creek

My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie...

A thrilling debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I I T S Form O F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.