Saturday, 29 September 2007

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

The Uncommon Reader
Alan Bennett
Faber/Profile €??

ONE'S out for a stroll in the grounds when the corgis take a dislike to a strange van.

When Her Maj wanders into the van to apologise for the rough manners of the royal woofers, she finds a peaceful scene: it's the City of Westminster's travelling library, and a kitchen boy is reading, while the librarian pastes a label into a book.

Flustered, one asks the same question as always. "Have you come far?"

And borrows a book. That's the start, because with Norman the kitchen boy as a guide, Queen Elizabeth is soon deep in literature and developing muscles.

It's not a popular move. The corgis try to dispose of the books by stealing them and worrying them. One's army tries to blow up the current seducer. One's prime minister and the visiting diplomats and tycoons are dismayed to be asked what they're reading (nothing, it always turns out).

Alan Bennett's charming, gently funny book has taken off on its home island, where the citizenry can be forgiven a little royal-worship. But it's well worth a sneaky read even for the most adamant republican.

xxxxx stars

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