Friday, December 14, 2007

Book Notes: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet

A Very Whimsical Subversion.

I was given a copy of this entertaining little book recently, and last night I finally managed to set aside the time to sit down and read it, time I spent with a wry grin attached to my face! Bennet's premise is that The Queen discovers reading, by a chance encounter with a mobile library parked in the grounds of the palace. The reading she undertakes begins as yet another duty, evolves into a joy and then an obsession which finally ends up.... well that would spoil the ending!

The book is quirky, witty, camp and amusing, but not quite as 'subversive' as the blurb on the back would suggest and what subversion might be hidden within it lies below the faintly deferential tone. This, of course, is the 'voice' that Alan Bennet likes to write in and which he has perfected. What drives the books is the power of reading, and its ability to change people (whoever they are) and the way that defenders of the status quo react to try and control its potentially radical effects. It is not amongst the best of Bennet's writing by some margin. But it is, as one would expect, rather nicely executed. It works best when you imagine it being read to you in his warm, ironic, but straight-faced, idiosyncratic way. It is a very short, and enjoyable read though.

No comments: