February 11, 2019, by Sunita Tailor
Book Review: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
This blog was written by first year English student, Sasha Gardner.
Having spent the past few months reading those texts deemed ‘canonical’ by the University of Nottingham English department, I was on the hunt for something a little more light-hearted and current. I found Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, a pocket-sized paperback lining the tills of Waterstones everywhere. Very much light-hearted, and laugh-out-loud funny at points, this book imagines what would happen if the Queen, at her advanced age, were to discover the joys of reading. She throws herself wholeheartedly into her new hobby, foisting books on her grandchildren and Prime Minister alike, to such an extent that her public duties begin to suffer – the Queen cuts short royal visits, itching to get back to the book stowed in her handbag. But this newfound enthusiasm doesn’t go unnoticed, and her equerries quickly begin plotting how best to mitigate Her Majesty’s obsession with reading.
Bennett uses the Queen’s quiet moments of introspection and rumination to explore the art of reading – why we do it, and what we take away from the books that we read. In response to the vice-chancellor’s admiration of books, the Queen comments ‘At the risk of sounding like a piece of steak, they tenderise one.’ Like any good reader, she reads with a pencil, noting down such aphorisms as ‘Etiquette may be bad but embarrassment is worse.’ The Queen reads widely and critically (perhaps a good model for the English undergraduate!), devouring everything from Plath to Proust, and never hesitating to make her opinions known to those around her.
The Uncommon Reader is ideal for reading between lectures, or in one sitting on an afternoon off. At just over a hundred (small) pages, Bennet’s book is the perfect study break for any student seeking some whimsy.