Yesterday, in between getting ready for Christmas and spending time with my family, I managed to start reading “The uncommon reader” by Alan Bennett. I have had it for quite some time, and thought that Christmas was the perfect time for reading some of the books, which have just been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time.
A book about reading – perfect! It tells the story about the queen of England, and what would happen if she started reading all the time. Neither the English people nor her own staff thinks this is a good idea, and wants her to stop reading so much, and especially so publically. The book focuses on the meaning of reading, and how literature can teach the reader something about the human mind, or can simple be just mere entertainment.
The queen is, at the beginning not a great reader, but with the help of Norman, a “kitchen boy”, she soon gets introduced to a lot of different authors and more and more worlds are now opening to her.
Read it, if you like books on reading, writing and authors or just enjoy a good story.
I have found some quotes that might give you an idea what the book is about.
“Authors, she soon decided, were probably best met within the pages of their novels, and were as much creatures of the reader’s imagination as the characters in their books. Nor did they seem to think one had done them a kindness by reading their writings. Rather they had done one the kindness by writing them”
“I would have thought,” said the prime minister, “that Your Majesty was above literature.”
“Above literature?” said the Queen. “Who is above literature? You might as well say one is above humanity.”
“The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something lofty about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included. Literature, she thought, is a commonwealth; letters a republic. Actually she had heard this phrase, the republic of letters, used before, at graduation ceremonies, honorary degrees and the like, though without knowing quite what it meant. At that time talk of a republic of any sort she had thought mildly insulting and in her actual presence tactless to say the least. It was only now she understood what it meant. Books did not defer. All readers were equal and this took her back to the beginning of her life. As a girl, one of her greatest thrills had been on VE night when she and her sister had slipped out of the gates and mingled unrecognized with the crowds. There was something of that, she felt, to reading. It was anonymous; it was shared; it was common. And she who had led a life apart now found that she craved it. Here in these pages and between these covers she could go unrecognized.”
“It was reading, and love it though she did, there were times when she wished she had never opened a book and entered into other lives. It had spoiled her. Or spoiled her for this, anyway”
“To begin with, it’s true, she read with trepidation and some unease. The sheer endlessness of books outfaced her and she had no idea how to go on; there was no system to her reading, with one book leading to another, and often she had two or three on the go at the same time.”