The Uncommon Reader

Of course as soon as I promise to make progress with Little Dorrit I find myself turning instead to much shorter books. The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett, is a novella about the Queen of England, who finds herself irrevocably changed (for better and for worse) when she begins reading. She is aided in her pursuits by Norman from the kitchens, but otherwise her staff and subjects are shocked at the concept. Overall. the story is fine blend of ph

The Queen is named at one point as Elizabeth, so I assume she is meant to be the current monarch. I wonder if her approval was needed to write this, or what her reaction was. The portrayal is somewhat sympathetic, but also matter-of-fact.

I read two of his other novellas several years ago, The Clothes They Stood Up In and The Lady in the Van, and at the time they were interesting but not memorable. I don’t think I was necessarily a lower-brow reader (I read Elizabeth Berg around the same time and loved her), but I was often looking for escapism more than ideas.

As Bennett suggests here, however, reading is a way of learning about life and those around you through fictional experiences.By following characters we become more perceptive of others emotions. Ultimately, however, reading remains a passive experience. This intake of information is only useful if then integrated into action, a moral that may seem obvious to some and exaggeration to others. Me? I follow the old “everything in moderation” and leave it at that.

I didn’t even realize until afterwards that this is on the Guardian’s 1000 Novels list under Comedy, but I’m going to try to stick with my original list for the challenge

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Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 4:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett […]


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