This is the first novella I have read in a very long time. The last one I can remember reading is The Pearl in junior high. I thought it was a good story, but because of the length of it, it was hard to really get into. I felt like just when I should have been getting into the story, it was over. I have a hard time with short story collections for the same reason.
This book tells the story of how the Queen went from being a non-reader to an avid reader, and the repercussions that followed. She had a lot of interesting things to say about reading, but first, what I really found interesting was how her attention shifted once she became a reader; her interest in her regular duties goes way down, and she just wants everything to hurry up and be done so that she can get back to her reading. Hmm… this sounds familiar.
Still, though reading absorbed her, what the Queen had not expected was the degree to which it drained her of enthusiasm for anything else.
…and love it though she did, there were times when she wished she had never opened a book and entered into other lives. It had spoiled her. Or spoiled her for this, anyway.
The Queen’s thoughts on reading:
What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do.
“Books are not about passing the time. They’re about other lives. Other worlds. Far from wanting time to pass, Sir Kevin, one just wishes one had more of it”.
The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something lofty about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not.
It was anonymous; it was shared; it was common. And she who had led a life apart now found that she craved it. Here in these pages and between these covers she could go unrecognized.
You don’t put your life into your books. You find it there.
The real problem the Queen had was that her staff did not want her reading. They didn’t think it was right for the Queen to be putting her own interests ahead of her subjects. So, they did all they could to stop her. In the end, she decided to stop on her own, so she could start writing instead.
And it came to her again that she did not want simply to be a reader. A reader was next door to being a spectator whereas when she was writing she was doing, and doing was her duty.
And, on that note, she has a little announcement to make, which is where the story ends.
If you want a quick, clever read, this is it. All the talk about books and reading make it even more appealing. But, what I really want to know is do you sometimes feel like all you want to do is read? Does it cause you to let other things slide? And, does that make you feel like you might be better off not reading at all? I know, for me, sometimes if I have a busy time coming up, I have to make myself not pick up a new book for a while. But it’s hard to do!
9 thoughts on “An Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett”
Oh, thank you for reminding me about this one! I had heard about this not too long ago, filed the title away somewhere in my brain and of course forget all about it. Sounds like a book-lover’s book. 🙂
I do sometimes feel like reading takes front-seat in my life… usually at the expense of working out. Especially in winter. I would so much rather snuggle up on the sofa with a good book and a mug of tea. This might be why I can only accomplish about 4 push-ups before collapsing into a heap.
4 push-ups is pretty good! 🙂
Not only is it a book-lover’s book, but it is also short and sweet! You can read it in day (or less)!
What an interesting premise for a book!
As for me, I feel that I waste too much time on the internet, *looking* for books or hanging out on Goodreads (looking at their giveaways, looking up different books, etc.), and I would like to spend a little more time reading. More reading, less accumulating! 😉
I have that same problem, Cecilia, especially now that I have this blog! But looking at books and reading about them are fun too!
I’m with Cecilia! And lately I’ve been neglecting my knitting in favor of reading, too. Tsk, tsk.
My knitting fell by the wayside years ago, after the birth of my third child. So far, I have not been able to come up with a way to knit and read at the same time. Or to cook/bake and read. Oh, I have tried. 🙂
I haven’t heard of this book, but I agree, it sounds so interesting! As to your question, lately I’ve been thinking about the books I’m reading or want to read so much I sometimes space out a bit around other people. So I’m trying to stop that … 🙂
I have to try very hard not to do that to my kids! It’s so easy to do!