Book Review: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Title: The Uncommon Reader

Author: Alan Bennett

Genre: Humorous Fiction/Novella

Number of Pages: 120

Rating: C+

Recommended?: No

I recently bought a few of Alan Bennett’s books, and even though I found this one underwhelming I’ll probably give something else by him a chance sooner or later. The Uncommon Reader was one of those books that didn’t leave me with anything truly negative to say about it, but the characters and storyline didn’t stick with me either. With a distinctly British sense of deadpan satire, The Uncommon Reader tells the story of the queen of England, and how an accidental encounter with a mobile library while chasing after one of her poorly behaved corgis ends up leading to an all-consuming love for literature.

While technically well-educated, she has little interest in reading for pleasure and sees books as a chore to be muddled through. With the help of a bright but overlooked young man named Norman, the queen embarks on a love affair with reading which proves inconvenient for her position in the monarchy (apparently intellectualism and politics don’t mesh as much as one might hope.) Sick of keeping up appearances as a royal, the queen scares aristocrats who suspect her devotion lies elsewhere.

This novella had a few funny moments but there wasn’t anything in it that made me laugh out loud. I liked the storyline and the message but I felt like it suffered from a lack of character development. In particular I would have liked to find out more about Norman but his role in the story was overwhelmingly lightweight. Overall The Uncommon Reader wasn’t a book I regret taking the time to read, but I wouldn’t actively recommend it to others.