The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Published: 2007

Genre: fiction

Length: 128 pages

Setting: England, present

Interest: It was recommended on the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour (a podcast I listen to as soon as it drops, every week).

Summary: The Queen of England, following her Corgis through the palace grounds, comes across a traveling library on the grounds. Not being much of a reader, she still feels obligated to take and finish a book. This starts her on a journey of reading, helped in the beginning by Norman, the only other patron at the library that day (and the following week). Norman is quickly promoted from kitchen help to amanuensis, and the Queen begins to read every chance she gets. She also becomes more impatient with State functions, but more aware of her impact on the people around her. Not everyone is happy she’s become an avid reader, but the Queen is determined to keep it up, regardless of what others think. Ultimately, she realizes she’s ready to do more, and the book ends when the Queen decides to write a book.

Final thoughts: A delightful book, and at only 128 pages (it is subtitled A Novella), it is a quick read. This one was a bit meta for me – I enjoyed reading about the Queen learning that she enjoyed to read. What she read was irrelevant – it was the impact on her life and the changes it lead to in her interactions with others that were important. There is such a sense of obligation, and the feeling that she is finally doing something for herself. And then the last line of the book changes everything (in a good way).

Title comes from: It’s Queen Elizabethwho has become a reader – can’t get much more uncommon than that.

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