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155 of 161 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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155 of 161 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.", 3 Sept. 2007
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (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. Though the eponymous "uncommon reader" is the Queen, her reactions to her reading (and other people's responses to her as a result of her reading) are so true-to-life and so plausible that Bennett accomplishes a feat rarely even attempted--he makes the reader identify with the Queen and root for her success as a bibliophile.

Bennett's humor depends on the fine line he creates between reality and absurdity, and his explorations into the absurd are so close to what might be, or what we might wish, that the reader sees, ironically, the absurdity of reality itself. As he posits an alternative "reading lifestyle" for the Queen, he makes the Queen seem human--and connected with her reading public in new ways. Bennett keeps the humor low-key, evoking images which allow the reader to discover, unassisted, the ironies which are so hilarious throughout the novella. And just at the point at which the reader might wonder how Bennett will ever end this wonderful romp, he surprises us with an absolutely perfect ending, which takes place on the Queen's eightieth birthday. Like the dramatist that he is, Bennett knows exactly when to stop. And does. Mary Whipple
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239 of 249 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delight in reading, even the Queen does now!, 3 Sept. 2007
By 
Sam J. Ruddock (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (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
3.0 out of 5 stars the uncommon reader, a small jewell in the crown, 23 Mar. 2009
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This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
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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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Windsor Castle With Love!, 10 Nov. 2007
By 
F. S. L'hoir (Irvine, CA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (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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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncommonly Good, 12 Nov. 2007
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This is a joy to listen to. Gentle, very funny, thought provoking and highly repeatable. The basic idea is deceptively simple and beautifully developed. I can't help wondering if the Queen has read the book and, if she has, how fiction might inspire fact. Lovely idea.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most delicious bonne bouche, 17 April 2009
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
This charming and witty little book (just 121 small pages) imagines the Queen, some fifty years into her reign, coming upon a travelling library parked next to the royal kitchens. Out of politeness, she borrows a book at random. She has never had any time or inclination for reading anything other than state papers, though she has met many famous authors with whom she had exchanged small talk. The first book, by Ivy Compton-Burnett, is hard going, but she has known since childhood that it is her duty to finish what she has started. Then she borrows another book, and soon she is hooked on reading, initially quite undiscriminatingly, to the incomprehension of the Duke and the active hostility of the palace officials. She feels she is doing her duty to find out "what people are like", and she is not shocked by anything she finds. There is an innocence about her, but also a shrewd and down-to-earth intelligence in her appraisals of literature. It appeals to her that books address the highly and the lowly placed alike, for "she was a genuine democrat, perhaps the only one in the country". What had been seen as a duty becomes a pleasure, and then a passion. It makes her impatient of small talk and of the clichés she has to utter in the speeches that are written for her. Soon she has a sense of history which her prime minister sadly lacks - but by that time the prime minister has been in office long enough no longer to listen to what the Queen has to say at his weekly audience with her.

Around this affectionate portrait of the Queen, Alan Bennett's imagination has woven a number of delicious incidents, gently satirical, and all in his crystalline prose and unmistakable voice.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An uncommon premise, 5 April 2009
By 
stripeyunited - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
What a great idea. The Queen is a mysterious and generally impenetrable character, at the centre of British national identity abroad and at home. Who knows whether she's an avid reader or not? Whether she has the time to or not? Alan Bennett's charming little tale supposing that she doesn't read and develops a habit of reading does make you think. About how restricted a life being a public figure might be. And how few real freedoms you might actually have. And how many people might feel a right to resent you trying to branch out and do something different...

This has a definite Bennett voice, with charm and wit. Making you smile while making you think. And perhaps inspiring the reader to expand their own horizons, to think about what reading might give you, and where that might lead.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, perceptive and gentle...., 17 Mar. 2009
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
A charming novella about the joy of reading and the way in which books can liberate the spirit. One day while walking her dogs the Queen comes upon a mobile library in the palace grounds and out of politeness borrows a book. Soon she is hooked on books and she develops and new attitude to everything around her.

The books and Bennett's/the Queen's comments on them are constantly entertaining. "Am I alone in wanting to give Henry James a good talking-to?" says the Queen. She is disappointed that her passion for reading is not shared by others in her sphere (except the wonderful Norman). Her interest in books is even seen as dangerous by some of the civil servants.

It is Alan Bennett at his best - funny, perceptive and gentle. And there is even a nice twist at the end.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and Entertaining, 23 Sept. 2007
This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Hardcover)
I absolutely loved this book, I have never really been interested in the Royal Family but the idea rather appealed to me - the Queen borrowing books from a mobile library. The story develops from that simple idea and becomes a very thought provoking tale of her life and what it means to be queen. The book is very short (perhaps a couple of hours of reading) and as it was drawing to an end I couldn't imagine how Mr Bennett was going to bring it to a close, let me assure you that he manages in the final line to bring it to a spirited ending.

What I particularly liked was the detail (whether imagined or real) of palace life and the job of the equerrys who act as "coaches" to the public when they meet the queen. In addition the Queen's slow realisation of her own affect on other people.

I would recommend it for a rainy afternoon you'll love the detail, the ideas and the humour.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Uncommon Reader, 28 April 2009
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This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
As the notes on the jacket indicate, this is about a special reader who finds her way to the mobile library; one from the palace. I loved the book. Every paragraph contained some new delight. While being funny and touching, it was also a clever and serious comment on society and Her position in the world today. I do hope she's read it and enjoyed it too!.
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The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (Paperback - 26 Jun. 2008)
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