Today’s book review, of a comedy novella, is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Synopsis: The Uncommon Reader is none other than HM the Queen who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library parked at Buckingham Palace. She reads widely (JR Ackerley, Jean Genet, Ivy Compton Burnett and the classics) and intelligently. Her reading naturally changes her world view and her relationship with people like the oleaginous prime minister and his repellent advisers. She comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with much that she has to do. In short, her reading is subversive. The consequence is, of course, surprising, mildly shocking and very funny.
This novella is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Uncommon-Reader-Alan-Bennett/dp/1846681332 and http://www.amazon.com/The-Uncommon-Reader-Alan-Bennett/dp/1846681332.
Review (of the audiobook)
The story starts with Queen Elizabeth II – thanks to one of her noisy corgi dogs barking in the grounds of Buckingham Palace – discovering the local council’s travelling library. She borrows a book, with help from one of her kitchen-hands, Norman Seakins, and her love affair with books starts. This sees Norman promoted then – without the queen’s knowledge – ‘demoted’ (to become a creative writing student at the University of East Anglia) although their paths cross again later.
During the journey of the book (and a few journeys of her own), the Queen takes every opportunity she can to read even while waving from her carriage. Resentment builds from her staff, and less-than-understanding family – on one occasion one of the books, she’s told, was taken for a suspect package and blown up. As we are lead to believe is true in real life, the Queen is very savvy and while no one knows whether she’s read this book, it’s an homage to her, her being beautifully portrayed throughout.
There are some brilliant Bennetisms e.g. ‘She didn’t have hobbies. Hobbies involved preferences and preferences had to be avoided… Reading wasn’t doing – she was a doer’, ‘All readers were equal… Between the covers she could go unrecognised’ and ‘The Queen’s Private Secretary, New Zealander Sir Kevin Scatchard, wondered why the queen frequented the travelling library when she had a few of the stationary kind of her own.’
If I had to choose a desert island book, it would be a pictorial dictionary, purely to keep my writing going but ‘The Uncommon Reader’ would be in my top three fictions (along with Roald Dahl’s and Kate Atkinson’s short story collections).
Rating: 5 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
You can subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app via Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything.
You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my books (including my debut novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping List, various short story collections and writer’s block workbooks) and If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating. Thank you.
For anyone looking for an editor, do take a look at Editing and Critique.
If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.