From one of England's most celebrated writers, the author of the award-winning The History Boys, a funny and superbly observed novella about the Queen of England and the subversive power of reading
When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Discovering the joy of reading widely (from J. R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, and Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) and intelligently, she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically. Abetted in her newfound obsession by Norman, a young man from the royal kitchens, the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the routines of her role as monarch. Her new passion for reading initially alarms the palace staff and soon leads to surprising and very funny consequences for the country at large.
The Uncommon Reader,…is a kind of palace fairy tale for grown-ups. Once again [Bennett] tells a story about an eccentric old lady, a character type he seems to enjoy. (He wrote a wonderful memoir, The Lady in the Van, about the nut job who lived in his garden for 15 years.) This time, his odd, isolated heroine is the queen of England. The story of her budding love affair with literature blends the comic and the poignant so smoothly it can only be by Bennett. It's not his very best work, but it distills his virtues well enough to suggest how such a distinctive style might have arisen.