- Fizzy Thoughts: The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader

Monday, March 02, 2009


The Uncommon Reader
Alan Bennett
2007
128 measly pages

Last night I read The Uncommon Reader (and yes, I have 9 other books to review, 8 from February, but I figure I might as well work backwards).

I'm not really sure what to say about this little book. It's short, so I blew threw it in what seemed like no time. At times, I disliked it. But then, there would be passages like this:

"The next morning she had a little sniffle and, having no engagements, stayed in bed saying she felt she might be getting flu. This was uncharacteristic and also not true; it was actually so that she could get on with her book."
I know many of you love this book. And I'll admit that I found most of the observations about reading pretty darn accurate (I mean really, how many of us have pulled that call in sick trick?). But. There's just something I can't quite put my finger on. There's a word to describe the book that I can't think of (and that's driving me mildly crazy). And the end! WTF was up with the end??

Here's the synopsis, for those of you who haven't read it:

From Publishers Weekly
Briskly original and subversively funny, this novella from popular British writer Bennett (Untold Stories; Tony-winning play The History Boys) sends Queen Elizabeth II into a mobile library van in pursuit of her runaway corgis and into the reflective, observant life of an avid reader. Guided by Norman, a former kitchen boy and enthusiast of gay authors, the queen gradually loses interest in her endless succession of official duties and learns the pleasure of such a common activity. With the dawn of her sensibility... mistaken for the onset of senility, plots are hatched by the prime minister and the queen's staff to dispatch Norman and discourage the queen's preoccupation with books. Ultimately, it is her own growing self-awareness that leads her away from reading and toward writing, with astonishing results. Bennett has fun with the proper behavior and protocol at the palace, and the few instances of mild coarseness seem almost scandalous. There are lessons packed in here, but Bennett doesn't wallop readers with them. It's a fun little book.

Okay, I'll admit. It was fun (at times). But it kind of reminds me a bit of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, or The Alchemist. I'm not a big fan of little moral lessons in my books, especially if said book is short. It bothers me. I feel like I paid money for a sermon, and considering I don't even do free sermons, that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I think I read this for the Dewey's Books Challenge. Yup, I did. Since I had to go look for my original list, now would be a good time to remind myself of what I pledged to read:

Looking for Alaska by John Green - finished
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi - finished
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett - finished
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie

8 comment(s):

Chris said...

I loved this one! Sorry you didn't have the same experience :( I have to go find my Dewey's Challenge list too! I totally forgot what I said I was going to read :p I need to read one this month for your challenge!

Nymeth said...

I agree with you about not liking moral lessons in my books (I loathed The Alchemist and everything else by Coelho for this very reason), but I really didn't find this book preachy! Ah well, that's part of the fun of reading...we each see different things in the books we read :P

bermudaonion said...

Sorry it didn't work for you. I'm one of those who loved this one.

farmlanebooks said...

I don't think I've ever heard anyone saying they don't like Mitch Albom books before! I find them like annoying lectures too!

I haven't read this one yet, and I'd heard so many good things about it - I'm worried I won't like it now. I've got a copy here - I'm tempted to read it right now to see if I do!

Care said...

If you read my review, you'll find that I didn't gush over it... I love your reviews! :)

Melanie said...

I had to check my reading journal. I gave it 3.5/5 and called it cute. I don't remember it being preachy - but I read it a year ago. I do think Albom is preachy for sure.

chartroose said...

I listened to it on cd, and the abrupt ending made me think that I had messed up my {ahem} no so legal ripping of the thing. It was too short and too "simple" if you know what I mean.

chartroose said...

Oh, one good thing is that Alan Bennett read it, and he sounded so English butlerish.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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