The Uncommon Reader
Alan Bennett’s latest work is a charmingly subversive novella in which the Queen develops a taste for reading. She stumbles upon the Westminster travelling library thanks to her ill-mannered corgis, and swiftly moves from a determined and dutiful perusal of Ivy Compton-Burnett to an amused appreciation of Nancy Mitford: ‘novels seldom came as well connected as this’. Soon, she is taking a dangerous and time-consuming delight in the English canon and beyond.
Her advisors (some of whom are easily recognisable) are appalled and they banish her ginger-haired amanuensis, Norman, a former palace skivvy, to the University of East Anglia’s School of Creative Writing. But the subversive power of reading and writing has a shock or two in store for the philistines. This is vintage Bennett: light comedy, steel-tipped barbs and old-school regard. ‘The best satire comes out of affection,’ says Bennett. ‘I often think I’m the last monarchist.’ (Hannah Adcock)