'Exploded?' said the Queen. 'But it was Anita Brookner.'
The young man, who seemed remarkably undeferential, said security may have thought it was a device.
The Queen said: 'Yes. That is exactly what it is. A book is a device to ignite the imagination.' (from The Uncommon Reader, page 34)
The Uncommon Reader is a delightful novella by Alan Bennett that all book lovers should read. If you're like me and books have taken over your home and life, then you'll understand the plight of the Queen of England. The Queen, while chasing after her dogs, finds herself in a mobile library, and she borrows a book. This simple act completely changes her life, and she soon learns that reading is a lot more interesting than carrying out her royal duties.
The next morning she had a sniffle and, having no engagements, stayed in bed saying she felt she might be getting flu. This was uncharacteristic and also not true; it was actually so that she could get on with her book. (pages 13-14)I nodded and laughed my way through this short book, finding myself here and there between its pages. The Queen moves Norman -- the young man whom she met in the mobile library -- out of the kitchen and into her office, and she turns to him for book discussions and recommendations, much to the chagrin of her personal secretary, Sir Kevin. The way she and Norman talked about books and authors reminded me why I enjoy reading book blogs: partly for book recommendations and partly for the companionship of fellow book lovers. I found it hilarious when the Queen would meet with her subjects, and instead of asking them about their travels or other trivial questions, she'd ask them what they were reading and even pull out her current book to show them. However, the novella is a bit depressing in that the Queen's love of the written word is not shared by Sir Kevin, the prime minister, and other close contacts, and they do what they can to keep her away from books.
The Uncommon Reader made me remember exactly why I love reading so much. Reading takes you on adventures to places you normally wouldn't travel, allows you to experience things you normally wouldn't experience, and lets you escape the stresses of your life for a little while. But The Uncommon Reader is about so much more than an obsession with books; it's about finding yourself and broadening your horizons, no matter your age. The fact that it's all about books is just icing on the cake.
Disclosure: I purchased my copy of The Uncommon Reader.