The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

The uncommon reader - a hilarious novella (short book) that will make you smile all the way through

Sometimes you need a break from big and taxing books.

This is a really quick read that still has enough to talk about for a book club discussion.


This Novella is very simple.

The Queen of England, discovers the joys of reading late in life.

It starts when she goes to find her corgis down by the Palace bins & meets Norman, who starts to bring books for her enjoyment.

The establishment is not best pleased and even tries to remove books that they don't think are suitable for the queen to read.

The Uncommon Reader is a very mischievous and funny read.


Alan Bennett sets out to remind us of the value of reading.

He illustrates how, through The Queen, reading can take us to different levels. His choice of character is clever, for, after all, she is the best known & first lady of the land. (Well! My land!

Inspite of this, her life has been governed by protocol & affairs of State. Suddenly, her life changes as she learns more about ordinary people from books than she's ever done.


The most wonderful thing about this book is the humour; it permeates every page. Right from the beginning, we laugh at the idea of The Queen looking for the corgis down by the bins, where she finds the local Library Van. As if!!! Then later, in her Coach, she waves graciously with one hand whilst holding her book in the other so that she can read on her way to The State Opening of Parliament. ETC.

The best humour though, comes from knowing how those around her react, not just the Prince, who is, as ever, dry, but mostly the Establishment, those who organise her life in so much detail. They are furious, worried, scared that their Monarch, who has carried out her duties so steadfastly for so many years is suddenly behaving, in their eyes, irrationally. Great fun!!

Alan Bennett is by nature, a mischievous man, none more so than here. I loved their reaction. It's so funny that any book which is thought to be more unsuitable is quietly removed! And the reader is not very surprised when we see "Them" getting rid of Norman. It's easy to imagine that that goes on. And Oh! How terrible should the Queen put pen to paper! Not possible! However, it's a lovely thought that a queen like Norman might have such an influence on Queen Elizabeth; so mischievous!

The Queen, unlike the rest of us, has, during her reign, met such interesting, talented people & yet, Bennett suggests that she hasn't been able to appreciate them until now, after she has done so much reading. Then, ironically, when she gathers famous writers around her, she finds them quite dull. Surely Bennett is poking fun at his fellow writers here & with meaning! I should point out that I doubt the Queen or any one could read at such a rate later in life.

It's an interesting thought that whilst we learn so much about life from direct experience, the Queen is restricted in that learning because of protocol & eventually gains valuable second hand experience from reading.


What are the benefits of reading for your group?

What are the benefits of reading for the Queen in The Uncommon Reader?

If you were to spend an evening with a famous novelist, who would you choose and why?


Our book club gave The Uncommon Reader 8/10.

It was light-hearted and a quick read which, was perfect for a fun discussion as part of our Book Club Christmas Party.

This is a lovely warm portrayal of the Queen & to a lesser extent, the Duke. Bennet cleverly, but kindly, uses the Queen to illustrate the great benefits of reading.

Ordinary people, as well as the Queen, through reading, come to see the world in new ways. Our perspectives change; it helps to stop us from being too narrow. We can embrace all kinds of people & situations through reading.

"The Uncommon Reader" is, in this case preaching to the converted, if you plan to read this for your book club, but it is such a great, fun read.

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