Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Review: The Uncommon Reader

Summary: A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading. When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, Bennett describes the Queen’s transformation as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word. With the poignant and mischievous wit of The History Boys, England’s best loved author revels in the power of literature to change even the most uncommon reader’s life. -- macmillan

I can safely say that I probably would not have picked up THE UNCOMMON READER by Alan Bennett if I hadn't signed up for The Novella Challenge. I haven't read a lot of novellas in the past, so I thought this challenge would expand my horizons and it definitely has. I am so glad that I found this book -- it is absolutely hilarious while also being extremely insightful about the love of books. Plus, you get a good "bang for your buck" since it's very enjoyable while taking only a short time to read.

I think anyone who has a love of the written word will appreciate this book. The reader follows the Queen of England as she discovers reading books for pleasure. I found myself laughing quite a few times as the Queen gets caught up in her books and eventually finds her daily responsibilities getting in the way of her reading time. I certainly understand those feelings as I'm sure most avid readers do! What I also found funny was when the Queen was offering reading suggestions to everyone she met (it is especially entertaining when she keeps offering the Prime Minister books about the Middle East.) My friends will vouch that I am always giving telling them books that they "just have to read."

I found Mr. Bennett's writing style to be wonderful. The prose was very eloquent while also being very funny. So much of what Mr. Bennett said about reading was spot on with my own feelings -- of course, I could never voice them near as well. For example, "What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do." Here's another wonderful quote, "I think of literature, she wrote, as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach. And I have started too late. I will never catch up." What a beautiful way to say that there are too many books and too little time!

I highly suggest THE UNCOMMON READER for pure reading entertainment. I think every book lover will recognize some elements of themselves in this book. I loved the story and Mr. Bennett's writing; however, I think the main reason that I enjoyed it so much was that I felt like my feelings about books and reading were somewhat validated -- I'm not alone in my craziness for books!


trish said...

I think I'll be picking this up for the Novella Challenge as well! :-)

Anonymous said...

Great review! I've seen this recently on another blog and think I'll read it sometime soon.

LisaMM said...

I saw this reviewed at Care's Online Book CLub blog recently. She loved it, too. Great review and it's going on my list.

Gentle Reader said...

Lisamm directed me to your review of this, as I just reviewed it, too. Wasn't it charming? I loved the character of the Queen. And I really enjoyed your review. Thanks!