An unexpectedly laugh-out-loud novella, The Uncommon Reader looks to the value of books and reading as seen through the eyes of a special individual and latecomer to the pleasures of curling up in a comfy chair, book in hand.
When the corgis disappear round the back of the palace, in following them QEII stumbles across the mobile library and its one user, kitchenhand Norman. Ever polite and not wishing to cause offence, the Queen borrows a single book (Ivy Compton Bennett) and, whilst hardly the best belated introduction to the joys of reading, she is hooked.
Much to the dismay of her staff, her renowned punctuality slips, the current book is always to be readily at hand and Norman is brought up from the kitchens as her literary advisor and library boy (the mobile bus is cut by the local council as a cost cutting exercise, regardless of the its high profile user). Private Secretary Sir Kevin struggles with the new interests of the Queen – as do visiting dignitaries and the prime minister himself as the Queen’s main topic of discussions are based around books.
The Uncommon Reader is a delightful diversion as the president of France is asked his thoughts on Jean Genet and Alice Munro becomes a favourite when, on a state visit to Canada, the Queen’s supply of books from the palace is ‘lost’ in transit (Sir Kevin really was not happy about the latest hobby). A guest at a function as a notable Canadian, Munro is only too happy to supply the Queen with copies of her many books.
Short and sweet, it’s light, warm hearted and respectful with some absolutely priceless dialogue as Elizabeth moves through a surplus of gay novels (Norman’s visits to the library…) followed by the classics.