Monday, May 12, 2008

We Are Quite Amused

Title: The Uncommon Reader
Author: Alan Bennett

Chasing after her escaped corgis, the Queen of England one day finds herself in a place of great wonder and enchantment – the bookmobile that pays weekly visits to Buckingham Palace. Out of politeness and a sense of civic duty, the Queen checks out a book. Royal literary hijinks ensue.

The Queen has read dutifully throughout the seven decades of her life, but has always been more engrossed in things like horseback riding and breaking bottles of champagne against royal ship hulls. But she finds this rare experience of pleasure reading enjoyable, and chooses another book the next week. And then she reads another, and another, and before she knows it, she’s embarrassing the President of France during a state dinner when she pointedly inquires after his opinion of Jean Genet. “Homosexual and jailbird,” she quips, “was he nevertheless as bad as he was painted?” (And no, I have no idea who Genet is either.)

Alan Bennett’s novella poses – and answers – the question of what would happen if the Queen of England suddenly became an engrossed bookworm. How would her subjects react when the first question she asks during audiences is what they’re reading? How would her handlers cope with a monarch who is slowly losing interest in her daily public duties? And could stoic Britain bear the scandal if her Queen suddenly decided to -- *gulp* -- write herself?

Funny and thoughtful, this is almost a perfect little book. Bennett’s Queen fascinates. Despite her public fame and extensive experience, her view of the world is very limited – almost naïve. But she’s curious, witty, and intelligent, and it’s fun to watch her character grow as books gain a stronger and stronger hold on her.

If you miss this book, you would be remiss!

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posted by Elizabeth at 10:21 PM


Blogger Kat said...

Gasp, the Queen of England reading??? Egads!

Sounds like a fun book. I've ordered it through my local public library. Sadly however, I don't know of a bookmobile in the system. There might be one but I live within walking distance of two of the libraries, so I would have no excuse to use one anyway.

5/15/2008 10:19 AM  

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