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154 of 160 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Books, bread and butter, mashed potato--one finishes what's on one's plate."
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...
Published on 3 Sept. 2007 by Mary Whipple

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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the uncommon reader, a small jewell in the crown
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...
Published on 23 Mar. 2009 by Anne de Bueil


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncommonly good, 8 Mar. 2009
This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
Alan Bennett has shown that you can write a beautifully crafted, wonderfully creative, surprisingly believable, fully rounded and complete novel in just 120 pages. Would that some other authors would learn from him! Normally I would have steered clear of anything by Alan Bennett, as images of elderly spinsters talking to camera about nothing much, in various TV series, spring to mind. But then I had the fortune to hear Terry Jones talking enthusiastically about the book on a BBC Radio 4 programme. Thanks Terry. The book is so realistic that I imagine even the Queen herself half suspects it is true!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It all started with the corgis, 12 Dec. 2008
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
I stumbled on this book by accident and I absolutely love it. The Queen following her recalcitrant corgis, comes across a mobile library. She decides to borrow a book and starts talking to Norman, one of her kitchen staff. Somewhat surprised she becomes captivated by reading. How this changes her life and the lives of those around her makes for an excellent read. But this is a book with just that little bit of acid in it and a main character who decides she will have her own way after years of doing her duty. The machinations of the courtiers are brilliantly portrayed as is her friendship with Norman. The world seems a better place after reading this and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a little bit of whimsy with their fiction. It is a book to treasure and deserves to become a classic. The finale is a masterpiece.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good quick read - some laughs, reflection on human nature, unanticipated ending, 25 Sept. 2007
By 
TGW Page "TGWP" (Holywood, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Hardcover)
This is a light read, more memorable than many books.

HRH happens upon a mobile library in the Palace grounds, and discovers English literature ancient and modern. She wishes she had made more of countless encounters with the writers she now understands better.

Absorption in reading lessens the Queen's engagement with routine protocol, while heightening awareness of others' humanity. Bennett catches officials' concern and narrowness "Thus it was that the dawn of sensibility was mistaken for the onset of senility".

Not often as you read a book are you coaxed to recursively think about what this reading process is doing to you. The fictional monarch's insight "You don't put your life into your books. You find it there" is insightful.

Definitely recommended, especially if you don't know your amanuensis from your opsimath.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars People's Queen, 28 Feb. 2008
By 
Jose Carvalho (Portugal) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Hardcover)
At a time in History when everyone is adamant to prove and show that Her Majesty is human (as if were there any doubt), there comes a fine and funny story about Her Majesty's reading habits. A nice book, thouroughly enjoyable, that shows appreciation for one (if not THE ONE) of the best Heads of State the world has known. Though not with executive power, the world, yes, all of us, owe this Person a debt of gratitute for an enormous wisdom, insight and charisma, shown to us all through more than 50 years of a blessed reign! Long live the Queen, and may Her Majesty be as reader friendly as the character she portrais in this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insulting? Hardly!, 4 Jan. 2012
By 
D. R. Cantrell (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Hardcover)
Some reviewers have criticised this for being "insulting". It is anything but. It is a tender, gentle portrayal of the Queen. Yes, it shows her as being initially a damned illiterate Philistine, but in that she is hardly unique - almost all of her fellow British citizens are in real life, and all but one of her staff and government are in this fiction. But it also shows her as being able to cure herself of that terrible condition, of having the gumption to outwit those who would rather she remain so, and of being socially liberal. That isn't insulting, it's downright respectful to portray someone as being resourceful and intelligent!

Like much of Bennett's work, there is a gentle humour throughout, much of which comes from the conflict between our ignorant assumptions of the real Queen's habits and beliefs and those of the very different character Bennett has created. But most importantly, far more important than it being entertaining (which it is), or it being beautifully written (it's that too), it is a paean to the joy of reading, and that it doesn't matter what you read as long as you enjoy it.

I bought this on my Kindle on Christmas Eve at my father's recommendation, read it all the way through in one sitting, and loved it so much that I promptly ordered the hardback edition as well. I know that you'll love it too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delicious little gem, 11 Mar. 2008
By 
Benjamin (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Hardcover)
HM the Queen stumbles upon a mobile library in the Palace grounds while in pursuit of her wayward corgis. She feels obliged to investigate; apart from the librarian its only occupant is Norman, a ginger haired young lad who it appears works in the Palace kitchens. HM leaves the mobile library not only with a new interest about to blossom, but also having met her unlikely ally in her new hobby. For Norman is soon promoted from the kitchens to find himself advising HM on her reading matter, that he has a predilection for gay authors simply adds to entertainment.

The Queen's new interest causes consternation in both Palace and Government circles, and unsurprisingly Norman is not particularly popular either. Of course the real delight of this little book is the premise that HM should be so distracted by something as seemingly ordinary which we, the reader, take such pleasure in. That she should be aided and abetted by a gawky teenager makes it particularly delicious. Her reaction to the various authors she stumbles upon, and the innocence and broadmindedness with which HM pursues her new found distraction makes her all the more endearing.

This is an absolute gem of a book, full to the brim with wit and humour; perhaps a certain waiting Prince might get some ideas.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Queen That Turned, 25 Oct. 2011
By 
Eugene Onegin (Lincoln England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
If a book about the Queen and her interest in books doesn't sound quite your thing-don't be put off-Alan Bennett has managed to write a genuinely amusing story with a message without any need to belittle the Queen or her position. I was reminded reading this how much we take Bennett for granted-he writes with such clarity and economy that the pages fly by and sometimes one might be tempted to underestimate the quality of the prose and the observational humour. The story is disarmingly simple: the Queen drops into a mobile library one day and decides that she needs to catch up with a lifetime's missed reading-the consequences of this seemingly innocuous decision create the theme for the remainder of the 120 pages offering Bennett the chance to lampoon the pomposity of officials and the literary limitations of Prime Ministers. The funny situations and sardonic observations for which the author is famous come thick and fast and there is a neat twist at the end. However, as with Oscar Wilde wit need not always be trivial-Bennett has a serious point to make about how the modern media controls our perception of public figures and how this distorts and restricts them. A perfect book for a train journey or a winter's evening. Don't hesitate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A deceptively deep and pleasurable two hours, 2 Feb. 2009
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
`Untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting' is how Alan Bennett describes the pleasures of reading in this whimsical little tale, which for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed. It's the story of what happens when the Queen wanders into Westminster Council's mobile library, parked for the afternoon in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Slowly but surely, she becomes addicted to reading for pleasure, to the consternation of her Private Secretary, and the neglect of her public duties. Though choosing the Queen as the character around whom to develop the theme might seem odd, Bennett's done it before - and it's a choice that works well as soon as he starts to explore the distinctions between reading out of necessity and reading because One wants to. Along the way, he makes some great points about the value of a literary amanuensis and the state of literacy in the nation as a whole (hence the double irony of the title's `uncommon'). It would have been five stars if it hadn't been for the rather abrupt ending that, I felt, strained the whimsy just a little too far. But this two-hour read (120 or so pages in all) is a deceptively deep, pleasurable experience nonetheless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An abolute delight, 19 Dec. 2011
This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
Rarely does a book induce me to say, 'an absolute delight', but this one did.

A sumptuously appointed narrative revolves around the Queen's abruptly acquired, all consuming passion for reading, and the ensuing miscellany of court antics, equerry interactions and other deliciously humorous situations.

The clever, understated, sure-footed prose and dialogue is so believable, so real, you feel as if you are actually there; observing silently, unnoticed in the corner of the room.

His bold, seemingly nerveless decision to choose and emphatically capture our monarch as the lead character, is matched by an ability to carry it off so effortlessly.

Personally, I thought it had the feel of a classic. A classic in conception, originality and execution. And definitely classic Alan Bennett - a master of his craft.

Being a rather slim, 121 page volume its easily devoured in a session or two; time simply whizzing by. And yes, I wanted more, much more, more of the same. Please.

What does the Queen herself think of the book I wonder? One can only guess, but I'm sure this author knows the real answer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bennett's wry and whimsical voice entertains One, 15 April 2011
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This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
This is a delicious, witty, good hearted book, which pokes fun at The Establishment and celebrates reading. Bennett's portrayal of The Queen as a late, voracious and intelligent reader is a wonderful flight of fancy. I found myself warming to Bennett's imaginary version of HRH. So much more believable than the real one!

As well as taking a pop at all sorts of stuffy and frozen-in-attitudes figures of the day - from Prime Ministers to Press Secretaries - Bennett more importantly, in this bubble of fun, displays the very REAL power of literature to transform and expand the reader. Literature teaches us about our own humanity, and indeed literature can EXPAND our humanity. Just as meeting people in the flesh whose views and lives are different from our own opens up the possibility of greater awareness and understanding, so does the exposure to those imaginary creations of real minds.

Bennett, with his wonderful quirky humour and sharp observations is a brilliant champion of the crucial importance of the world's literary heritage.

And the ending of the book............is perfect.
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The Uncommon Reader (BBC Audio)
The Uncommon Reader (BBC Audio) by Alan Bennett (Audio CD - 10 Sept. 2007)
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