Sunday, January 06, 2008

THE UNCOMMON READER by Alan Bennett (2007)

If you only have time to read one little book, this is the one to pick up. The Tony-award-winning playwright of THE HISTORY BOYS has imagined a reading life for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. And, it is a delightful romp.

When the rambunctious corgis take exception to a strange vehicle parked on the palace grounds, the Queen finds herself apologizing to the librarian/driver about their over-enthusiastic behaviour. Because manners matter above all else, Her Majesty decides she cannot leave the little library on wheels without making a selection. So begins Bennett's delightful odyssey into a discourse on literature and why we all must read.

Soon, the previously duty-bound Queen finds herself making excuses, or playing sick in order to finish the current book under her nascent critical eye: from Alice Munro to Marcel Proust to Samuel Beckett. Her equerries are outraged and conspire to put a stop to her foolish reading. However, the Queen has a trump card solution to their high stakes game, which she plays at a High Tea for her Privy Councillors in celebration of her 80th birthday.

For its whimsy and intelligence, you can't match THE UNCOMMON READER.

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