Englischsprachige Literatur

Bennett Alan

The Uncommon Reader

Profile Books, London 2008


It is a charming little book, and the critics love it. In contrast to all the boring old-men´s stories full of self-pity and pompous sadness (just try the latest Philip Roth), Alan Bennett has written a little masterpiece of  elegance and wisdom, if not free from some know-all attitude.

We meet the Queen, who, whilst walking her Corgis, comes across the Westminster travelling library and borrows her first book, a recommendation by young Norman Seakins from the Royal kitchen, whom she happens to meet on the bus. She bravely reads through it and when she returns the book, Norman recommends another. She soon finds out that he prefers homosexual authors and follows her own independent road into reading. Her staff are quite perplexed, her personal secretary Sir Kevin sees to it, that Norman disappears from the Royal household, but that only makes the Queen angry and even more determined to read on. She neglects her Royal duties and has to be excused on several occasions.

When she decides, she has done enough reading and now should start writing down her own thoughts, alarm bells ring all over the palace. In the end, she resigns to be able to engage in her new career. Bennett tells this novella full of mild irony and genuine understanding for his heroine, and it gives him a chance to muse about his own favourite book-list. And  although Bennet suffers from cancer there is hardly any bitterness in this touching story.