The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett has written a delightful little book – a novella – about what happens when an assumed non-reading person discovers books. In this case, the assumed non-reader is Queen Elizabeth II. The story unfolds when she is walking her Corgis on the ground of Buckingham Palace and they take her to an area unfamiliar to her. (It is a big place.) There is a bookmobile, and a young man is coming out of the bus with books in hand. The Queen (who is curious) asks what he is doing and he gives her a book to read.

She reads the book and the story goes on from there. She makes the young man part of her household staff and eagerly awaits his next offerings. There are twists and turns galore, and the Queen reads merrily on. Bennett does a nice job of describing how she is changed by both the act of reading and the content of the books. One of the most delightful sections is when he talks about her conferring knighthoods – OBEs and the like – on the authors in the latest honors list, and several are astonished when she asks them about the latest book of theirs which she has read. And she tells them what she thinks of it!

The book comes to a rather surprising end, but it is as delightful as the rest of the story. Do read The Uncommon Reader.

The Uncommon Reader

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