• The Uncommon Reader

  • By: Alan Bennett
  • Narrated by: Alan Bennett
  • Length: 2 hrs and 27 mins
  • Radio/TV Program
  • Release date: 09-06-07
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: BBC Worldwide Limited
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.4 (265 ratings)

Regular price: $15.49

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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.
©2007 Alan Bennett (P)2007 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
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Critic Reviews

"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
5 out of 5 stars
By Angus on 11-03-07

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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10 of 11 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Victoria Evangelina on 01-07-11


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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3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Judi on 09-21-07

Very very funny, a riveting read

Having caught a brief episode of this book on Radio 4 I was intrigued enough to want to hear the whole thing. It has been worth every penny. It would have been cheap at twice the price. I laughed out loud almost from the start - the corgis were priceless. As a Librarian myself, I caught myself smiling and nodding at the mobile Librarian's reactions - would I have been so blase at meeting the Queen so unexpectedly? And the notion of the Queen reading in her carriage whilst appearing to wave. You must listen to this.

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17 of 17 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Helen on 10-21-07

Gentle, amusing, easy listen

At some points reminiscent of 'The Queen & I' by Sue Townsend, the book concerns the consequences that follow when The Queen decides to take up reading, having discovered the Westminster Mobile Lending Library in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Very funny in places, with a more gentle humour in others. Bennett uses the premise to explore the virtues of reading (and later, writing), and recommends several of his favourite authors and books along the way. This was a gentle, undemanding listen, that passed the time nicely while driving around the country. At times I felt that Bennett had stretched the basic concept as far as it could go, but there is certainly much to recommend here.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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