I was discussing with a friend a recent article in The Guardian celebrating Alan Bennett’s 75th birthday, and she asked me if I had read The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, [Faber & Faber RRP £10.99]. I hadn’t and so I bought it and loved it.
It tells the story of the Queen following her yapping corgis to Westminster City Council’s mobile library which is parked by the kitchens at Buckingham Palace. Inside are the librarian and Norman Seakins, a kitchen lad. Feeling obliged, the Queen asks if she might borrow a book and takes one by the rather hard-to-read Ivy Compton-Burnett. Her Majesty has no background in reading books despite having met, and bestowed honours on, many writers. This delightful story unfolds with Her Majesty becoming passionate about books.
Norman is promoted upstairs to select books for her and to become her amanuensis. The equerries’ disgust is palpable. Alan Bennett’s observations are a joy. The book is only a hundred and twenty pages long, and as the blurb says, “turn off the ’phone, lock the door and devour it”. Enjoy.