The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett

Book: The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett
Status: Read

This little gem of a book came as quite a surprise to me – as unenthusiastic as I am about the monarchy, I found myself identifying with the Queen! The Queen, to the annoyance of all around her, discovers literature and delves into it head first. She takes a book with her everywhere she goes, makes notes on what she reads, longs to talk about it with anyone who will listen.
As someone in the same position, it was lovely to read about such an adventure. Alan Bennett is one of the reasons why I began this journey, and yet again he has been able to describe the sheer magic of it.
Hope you enjoy the little sections I’ve taken from the book!

“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.”

“’I can understand’, he said, ‘Your majesty’s need to pass the time.’

‘Pass the time?’ said the Queen. ‘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.”

“To begin with, it’s true, she read with trepidation and some unease. The sheer endlessness of books outfaced her and she had no idea how to go on; there was no system to her reading, with one book leading to another, and often she had two or three on the go at the same time. The next stage had been when she started to make notes, after which she always read with a pencil in hand, not summarising what she read but simply transcribing passages that struck her.”

“Authors, she soon decided, were probably best met with the pages of their novels, and were as much creatures of the reader’s imagination as the character in their books. Nor did they seem to think one had done them a kindness by reading their writings. Rather they had done them a kindness by writing them.”

“….She rested on the ceremonial spade and recited by heart Philip Larkin’s poem ‘The Trees’, with its final verse:

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May,
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

And as that clear and unmistakable voice carried over the shabby wind-bitten grass it seemed it was not just the huddled municipal party she was addressing but herself too. It was her life she was calling upon, the new beginning hers.”

“She switched the light on again and reached for her notebook and wrote :’You don’t put your life into your books. You find it there.’
Then she went to sleep.”

Taken from ‘The Uncommon Reader’ by Alan Bennett
Available from Amazon UK :


2 thoughts on “The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett

  1. I also loved this little book and now when searching for a gift for a fellow book lover I always go looking for this. Reading the quotes reminded me how enjoyable it was to read.

    • niftybooks says:

      I love his ability to portray the mind of a book-lover, the enthusiasm that comes with that knowledge. He shows that it doesn’t have to come with arrogance or looking down your nose at people, it can breed a love for the world, a thirst for something new. He explains it better than I ever could!

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