Book reviews

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The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett


Hmm. When one is given a book by a dearly loved aunt, one reads the book, then wonders whether or not to be honest when reviewing the book. If one doesn’t enjoy the book and says so, will the dearly loved aunt’s feelings be hurt? One wouldn’t want that to happen, but one is also obliged to be honest when writing book reviews.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is the first book I have read by this author, who has written a number of enormously successful plays, screenplays, novels and autobiographies, including The Lady in the Van.

The main character in The Uncommon Reader is the Queen. While walking the corgis in the palace grounds, she comes across a mobile library and borrows a book.

While the first book she borrows is not to her taste, the Queen borrows another and eventually, becomes a book worm. Her official duties start to suffer, but her opinions develop. Eventually, palace staff, politicians and equerries try to dissuade the Queen from further reading.

While The Uncommon Reader is clever, it wasn’t for me. I hadn’t read any of the books the Queen read, so couldn’t find a connection there, and the Queen was unfortunately put off reading Jane Austen by all of the people who told her how much she would enjoy her works, losing the one chance I had of being won over.

There were plenty of characters who are actual English politicians and society people in the story but as an Australian these were lost on me. Probably someone who knew of these people might have found humour where I didn’t.

I expect I’ll see the movie of The Lady in the Van sometime, but will probably not read another book by this author. This may be stupid of me, but life is short…

The last book I gave my aunt was about 15 years ago, Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie. Welcome to Temptation is a cheerful and smutty  romance which my aunt very kindly described as “great fun.” I doubt that Welcome to Temptation would make the Queen’s reading list though.




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