Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet
I first heard about this little novella from Eva and it instantly went onto my wishlist. It sounded wonderful. Then just the other day, Dewey reviewed it and decided to keep it (which she rarely does) and I knew that I had to have it. So today, while doing some Christmas shopping at Barnes and Noble, the book jumped out at me on a little display table and I instantly scooped it up. I read the first sentence and an hour and a half later found that I had finished the book and had absolutely loved it. The Uncommon Reader is a tale of Queen Elizabeth and her newfound love of books. One day, while walking the palace grounds, she finds a traveling library van that comes weekly to the palace. She steps inside and decides to check out a book - A book by Ivy Compton-Burnett that goes unnamed, but I can't help but imagining that it's Manservant & Maidservant. While in the little van, she meets one of the kitchen boys by the name of Norman who soon becomes her reading adviser following her new found love of books. The queen starts to neglect her duties, instead snuggling up to a book every time she gets a chance. She goes on her drives throughout the country waving out the window as she should, but secretly reading a book while doing so below the window. Her council becomes upset about her constant reading, but it does not distract her. She's found a new passion, though late in life, and she wants to eat up every tome that she can, eventually thinking that perhaps she should write her own book. We start to find her in that familiar position of book in one hand and pencil in the other hand taking notes on what she's reading. This was such an incredibly delightful book and I felt warm inside for the duration of the hour and a half that I spent with it. There's mention of authors like Proust, Jane Austen, Kazuo Ishiguro, Sylvia Plath, and E.M. Forster among others. This book is truly a reader's dream book and it's one that I will proudly place on my shelves and undoubtedly go back to again and again. Every reader can find joy in this book as it's filled with wonderful quotes for booklovers. We can all relate to the queen as she devours book after book, even overwhelmed with the amount of books to read and not enough time to read them in. We can relate to her frustration with Henry James :p and I could certainly relate to her enjoying the works of Jane Austen but getting the characters confused, lol. This is one that should be in every reader's library. I just wish that it were a novel instead of a novella, but still, it wouldn't have been long enough.