The Uncommon Reader

  • by Alan Bennett
  • Narrated by Alan Bennett
  • 2 hrs and 27 mins
  • Radio/TV Program

Publisher's Summary

It was the corgis' fault. When they strayed through the grounds of Buckingham Palace, the Queen discovered the City of Westminster travelling library. The Queen has never had much time for reading - pleasure's always come second place to duty - "though now that one is here I suppose one ought to borrow a book". She is about to discover the joys of literature, albeit late in life. One book leads to another and the Queen is soon engrossed in the delights of reading. However, this uncommon reader creates an uncommon problem. The royal household dislikes the Queen's new interest; it makes them uneasy. Books are devices that ignite the imagination. And devices like that are likely to explode. Alan Bennett reads his new story about HM the Queen's all-consuming new interest, as heard on BBC Radio 4. This exclusive and extended edition is twice as long as originally broadcast.


What the Critics Say

"A masterpiece of comic brevity." (Observer)
"An exquisitely produced jewel of a book...[but] beneath the tasteful gilt-and-beige cover seethes a savagely Swiftian indignation against stupidity, Philistinism and arrogance in public places, and a passionate argument for the civilising power of art." (The Times, London)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Poignant and full of wit.

This is an excellent audio adaptation of a 2007 novella by English playwright, screenwriter and author Alan Bennett. It is read by Bennett himself and he does a wonderful job, subtly switching his voice to fit the different characters including the principal player: Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The story is set a year or two behind the present and imagines the Queen suddenly obsessed with reading literature. Although she has met many of the greatest names in modern English Literature (T. S. Eliot, Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes and the like), she has not up to been much of a reader. A chance encounter with a mobile library changes this and as a consequence changes her outlook on life and her role in the world. The blend of fact and fiction is seamless and there is a good sprinkling of jokes about the political landscape of Britain and the literary world in general. The humor is not overstated and Bennett avoids some of the more obvious comic possibilities. There are twists and turns in the story and I remained captivated right up to the closing words. With this download my iPod has trouble remembering where it was paused but the writing is so good that it doesn't hurt to listen to passages more than once.
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- Angus


Queen Elizabeth was sorry she did not read more! So many years of possible wonders and discovery, learning and witnessing life of others are lost! But there still is the chance! There is time that can be used for reading, for example, when driving to the Buckingham Palace! And... and...

Oh, I feel like I wanna read-read-read after I have listened to this superb edition of the book, read by the author himself! And it is indeed way deeper than it sounds from the description: though how could it be any different when the author is Alan Bennett himself? Oh, what an amazing voice, what a gorgeous English accent!!!

The book also left me with a nostalgic aura: I want to be in London again, in a park, reading a good book.... I am happy I had it and can always go back to my memories: London, tea with milk and cookies and hours of uninterrupted reading: little can be more pristine and sweet than this :)
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- Victoria

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-06-2007
  • Publisher: BBC Worldwide Limited