Reading has the power to change even royalty

  • Article by: LAURIE HERTZEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 12, 2008 - 7:53 AM

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

I first read this quirky novella last year. My sister-in-law ripped it out of the London Review of Books, where it had originally appeared, and mailed it to me with a note that said only, "I think you'll like this." And I did. Who wouldn't? It's a delightful, surprising tale about the power of words, and the way that reading can make a thinker out of anyone -- anyone!

And so the queen of England follows her runaway corgis into a bookmobile, checks out a book, just to be polite (as queens must be), and becomes an avid reader. The changes this brings about in her are so profound that her staff can only conclude that she's losing her marbles.

Bennett's writing is pitch-perfect -- melancholy and humorous without poking direct fun at the poor queen.

("There was sadness to her reading, too, and for the first time in her life she felt there was a good deal she had missed. She had been reading one of the several lives of Sylvia Plath and was actually quite happy to have missed most of that, but reading the memoirs of Lauren Bacall she could not help feeling that Ms. Bacall had had a much better bite at the carrot and, slightly to her surprise, found herself envying her for it.")

It's fun. It's subversive. I think you'll like it.


  • THE UNCOMMON READER

    By: Alan Bennett.

    Publisher: Picador, 120 pages, $12.

    Review: Quirky, delightful and fun.

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