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The Uncommon Reader Hardcover – 6 Sep 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 124 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; 1st edition (6 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846680492
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846680496
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 1.4 x 17.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (282 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 138,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alan Bennett has been one of our leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His television series Talking Heads has become a modern-day classic, as have many of his works for stage including Forty Years On, The Lady in the Van, A Question of Attribution, The Madness of George III (together with the Oscar-nominated screenplay The Madness of King George), and an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. At the National Theatre, London, The History Boys won numerous awards including Evening Standard and Critics' Circle awards for Best Play, an Olivier for Best New Play and the South Bank Award. On Broadway, The History Boys won five New York Drama Desk Awards, four Outer Critcs' Circle Awards, a New York Drama Critics' Award, a New York Drama League Award and six Tony's. The Habit of Art opened at the National in 2009. His collection of prose, Untold Stories, won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for autobiography, 2006. The Uncommon Reader was published in 2007.

Product Description


An exquisitely produced jewel of a book ... [but] beneath the tasteful gilt-and-beige cover seethes a savagely Swiftian indignation against stupidity, Philistinism and arrogance in public places, and a passionate argument for the civilising power of art. (Jane Shilling The Times)

...a masterpiece of comic brevity. (Robert McCrum The Observer)

Book Description

A co-publication between Faber and Profile, as with the bestselling Untold Stories.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

155 of 161 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 3 Sep 2007
Format: Hardcover
In chasing after her rowdy dog-pack one day, the Queen discovers them barking at a bookmobile, parked outside the kitchen at Windsor. Entering to apologize for the din, the Queen meets Norman Seakins, a young man from the kitchen whose primary interest is in gay books and photography. Feeling obligated to borrow a book, the Queen selects a novel, intending to return it the following week. Almost immediately, palace life changes. That night, with the president of France seated beside her at dinner, the Queen abandons her usual safe conversation and remarks, "I've been longing to ask you about Jean Genet...Homosexual and jailbird, was he nevertheless, as bad as he was painted?"

As the Queen expands her reading under the direction of Norman, she becomes less interested in day-to-day activities, even arriving late to the opening of Parliament because she forgot her book for the coach ride and had to have it brought to her. She no longer keeps to tried and true conversational subjects (the traffic on the road to the palace), as she converses with the public and meets honored guests, and she finds people becoming confused and tongue-tied. Dinner conversations no longer have the pleasant, easy-going atmosphere that once made invitations to the palace so memorable. When these issues continue for over a year, the Prime Minister determines to take action.

In this delightful novella, Alan Bennett (Beyond the Fringe, Talking Heads, and most recently, The History Boys), explores reading, writing, and their effects on our lives as he develops this imaginative and warmly humorous scenario.
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239 of 249 people found the following review helpful By Sam J. Ruddock on 3 Sep 2007
Format: Hardcover
Oh, such a fabulous premise for a book: Walking her corgis one night the Queen stumbles upon a mobile library. Not wanting to seem rude she borrows a book, and then another. Soon she has been bitten by the bug and finds herself reading whenever she gets a moment. She becomes adroit at reading in the car while waving with her free hand and seems to be neglecting her once impeccably performed duties. She reads capriciously and diversely, everything from Proust to Vikram Seth and soon the seditious world of literature has her questioning her life and the political world around her.

This is a devilishly funny book, an absolute joy for any lover of reading who wonders what the world would be like if more people in power read for themselves. In his portrayal of the Queen, Alan Bennett has traversed a minefield skilfully and created a character who is both eminently believable and endearingly lovable. If the Queen lives vicariously then this delightful portrayal of her joyous rebellion could even persuade her to take up reading in reality!

There is absolutely nothing to dislike in this humorous and well conceived novella. It is a short and enjoyable read, crammed with little anecdotes and facts which will be of interest to anyone fascinated by the world of books. Indeed, if you have already fallen for the vast world of literature then you will be rubbing your hands with glee at this celebration of reading in all its forms.

I cannot think of a better way to spend a couple of hours than devouring The Uncommon Reader. It is a book which everyone should read.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Anne de Bueil on 23 Mar 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I highly enjoyed the Uncommon Reader (an enticing title, full of old memories) where Her Majesty the Queen becomes a reading addict, a situation full of most comic consequences. But this delightful novel goes deeper than a mere entertainment: it also tells of the decay of reading, which can be seen in all social classes. It is also charmingly ambiguous (as was the film the Queen) for even if we know what fiction means, we cannot help confusing the queen in the novel and the real one, asking ourselves questions about the latter. We can also draw a personnal benefit from this brilliant novel: for my part,I completed a list of the books the queen devoures and I have just started reading Rose Tremain's novels thanks to the Uncommon Reader; with apologies for my clumsy english, not my home language.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By F. S. L'hoir TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 10 Nov 2007
Format: Hardcover
I first heard Mr. Bennett reading this book on BBC 4, and I ordered the book the next day.

In the best of all possible worlds, the Uncommon Reader of the title would include Alan Bennett in the New Year's Honours Lists for penning this little gem of a book. The author paints a gentle portrait of a very real woman, isolated by definition, whose life of dutiful dedication becomes richer and more enjoyable with the discovery of reading for pleasure. And, human nature being what it is, as soon as this pleasure is made evident, the stuffy bureaucrats, whose routine is upset by what represents an aberration in THEIR schedules, do their best to spoil it.

Bennett treats his Uncommon Subject--that is, his Monarch--with love. His dry and often acerbic humor is reserved for the politicians: the anonymous French premier, who has never heard of Jean Genet, or the equally anonymous and bellicose Prime Minister upon whom Her Majesty thrusts volumes about the endangered archaeological remains of the Cradle of Civilization. Needless to say, the books go unread. And then there is Sir Kevin! But to discover Sir Kevin's brand of singular contumacy, you must read the book.

You will not regret it!
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