Friday, December 05, 2008

The Uncommon Reader A Book Lover's Delight

I'm always on the lookout for clean reads to press into the hands of my 93-year-old grandma.

After skimming some reviews of The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, I thought it would work. A few pages into the story (after some homosexual references and some language issues), I realized I wouldn't be putting this one under her Christmas tree. I wouldn't describe the novella as graphic - it's more like irreverent - but there is definitely a bit of "color" to the story.

The plot is pretty simple - one fine day, the Queen of England chases her yapping dogs across the palace grounds. They - and she - end up in front of the City of Westminster's bookmobile. Curious, the queen steps inside. Although she reads, of course, "liking books was something she left to other people" (6). On this occasion, she decides to check out a book just to avoid the awkwardness of the situation. Armed with a novel by Ivy Compton-Burnett, she heads back to her home. Soon, the queen is visiting the bookmobile every week, checking out books by all kinds of authors on all kinds of subjects. She just can't get enough. The queen's advisors, however, are not quite as enthusiastic. Since discovering books, the queen has been performing her duties with considerably less elan - she waves listlessly from her car, while hiding a book on her lap; fakes colds to further her reading time; and asks unprepared dignitaries for book recommendations. One of the servants sums it up nicely: "Her Majesty is getting to be what is known as a handful" (42).

The queen's staff plots ways to distract her from reading, but she will not be put off her new hobby. Her interest will have funny and interesting consequences throughout her household and kingdom.

Bennett's novella charms in so many ways, offering a humorous plot, colorful characters, and surprising insight. Any voracious reader will recognize him/herself in the queen, and revel with her as she discovers the joy books bring. As long as they can handle a little "color," The Uncommon Reader should delight bibliophiles of every stripe.

Grade: A

P.S. Since this one didn't make the Grandma cut, I'm still looking for a clean read to give her for Christmas. Any ideas?

(Book Image from Barnes & Noble)

13 comments:

  1. My gram reads trashy romance novels and watches Jerry Springer! LOL So I don't have any suggestions for you on that front.

    I've heard this is a really good book. It sounds entertaining.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  2. Jan Karon's pretty clean. My mom adores her books. But she's pretty well known already.

    I really want to read The UnCommon Reader. It sounds like something I would really like.

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  3. Gilead or Peace Like a River might work.

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  4. Dee Henderson's O'Malley series are clean crime dramas. Very enjoyable. if you want to give a bit of nostalgia The Daring Book for Girls is great for any age.

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  5. The Guernsey Litereary and Potato Peel Society was pretty clean, wasn't it. I don't remember anything offensive or graphic. Only some war images. And the fact that one of the characters had a baby out of wedlock. Great book, and if she was alive at the time as my grandmother was, she might enjoy it.

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  6. Book Lover Lisa beat me to it! I was going to suggest the Guernsey book as well!

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  7. Perhaps one of Persephone Books' titles would work for her. Miss Ranskill Comes Home was very good and written in the 40s, so pretty clean.

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  8. Has she read all the Stephenie Meyer and Shannon Hale books yet? They're my idea of clean-but-good reading. :) (Does she even like fantasy?)

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  9. This is not what I typically read but it certainly sounded good. I think I will have to try it out.

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  10. I loved An Uncommon Reader!! It was my Christmas present one year and it was such a fun discovery. To pass the Grandma test you should try the Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman. Mrs. Pollifax is a widow and senior citizen who one day decides to leave her comfortable apartment and life and hook up with the CIA. It is a "comic" spy-mystery series that kind of reminds one a little of Murder She Wrote, but better. Our book group read one about 7 years ago and we still talk about what a great discovery this little lady was. She has a lot of pluck! She may also like the Miss Julia books by Ann B. Ross. I sold this one a lot at Barnes and Noble when I managed the store. Let me know what you think!

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  11. If she is into non fiction stuff, I would recommend "Once Upon a Town" (memoir about a town who helps trains passing through South Dakota on the way to fight in the war) or Letters of a Nation (collection of letters written by famous people throughout American History). Loved them both and seem safe for Grandma reads.

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  12. I can't think of any good recommendations off the top of my head, but this does sound like a great read.

    *runs off to add it to her list.

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  13. Sounds like a great book! I can't wait to read it, even if you grammy shouldn't. I'd go for a classic for her (Jane Eyre or something.)

    I love that you grade each book. Fun!

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