by Alan Bennett
This is my first read for 2016! I actually started it on January 1 and finished it on January 2; a novella, it’s a quick read at 120 pages.
The Uncommon Reader is the author’s imagining of what it might be like if the Queen of England became a book junkie. In his imagining, the elderly Queen Elizabeth stumbles one afternoon upon a book mobile parked outside the palace kitchen. Unbeknownst to her, this mobile library has been visiting the palace grounds every week for ages. When she cross paths with it on this particular day, she feels rather obligated to borrow a book.
Of course she reads, and has always read – doesn’t everybody read? (These are her thoughts.) But she’s never particularly enjoyed reading, and with a lifetime’s schedule crammed full of royal engagements and duties, who has time to read for pleasure? And in fact, this first book she borrows from the mobile library she finds rather dry, although she finishes it; that’s how she was brought up: you finish what you start. When she returns the book to the bookmobile, she again feels a sense of obligation to borrow another. And so it goes, and before long, she’s hooked. She’s reading for pleasure, anything she can get her hands on – not only that, she wants to talk about books, and about authors, and about writing. Oh, she’s missed so much by discovering a love of reading so late in life, and now she is almost racing against time to catch up.
And how does this new predilection of the Queen’s impact the royal family, and her royal duties and, indeed, her image with the public? Suddenly, life is full of pitfalls because the Queen is breaking out of the confines within which she has always existed.
A very enjoyable little book.