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The Uncommon Reader Radio/TV Program

The Uncommon Reader

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Publisher's Summary

Selected as one of the Telegraph�s 50 Best Summer Reads, 2009.
Shortlisted for the Audiobook Download of the Year, 2007.

It was the corgis' fault. When they strayed through the grounds of Buckingham Palace, the Queen discovered the City of Westminster travelling library. The Queen has never had much time for reading - pleasure's always come second place to duty - "though now that one is here I suppose one ought to borrow a book". She is about to discover the joys of literature, albeit late in life. One book leads to another and the Queen is soon engrossed in the delights of reading.

However, this uncommon reader creates an uncommon problem. The royal household dislikes the Queen's new interest; it makes them uneasy. Books are devices that ignite the imagination. And devices like that are likely to explode.

Alan Bennett reads his new story about HM the Queen's all-consuming new interest, as heard on BBC Radio 4. This exclusive and extended edition is twice as long as originally broadcast.

Click here to see all the titles in our Alan Bennett collection.

Listen to our charming interview with Alan Bennett on the Audible.co.uk Podcast.

©2007 Alan Bennett; (P)2007 BBC Audiobooks Ltd

What the Critics Say

"A masterpiece of comic brevity." (Observer)
"An exquisitely produced jewel of a book...[but] beneath the tasteful gilt-and-beige cover seethes a savagely Swiftian indignation against stupidity, Philistinism and arrogance in public places, and a passionate argument for the civilising power of art." (The Times, London)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (253 )
5 star
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4.5 (80 )
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Story
4.7 (80 )
5 star
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3 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Judi Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire, United Kingdom 21/09/2007
    Judi Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire, United Kingdom 21/09/2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very very funny, a riveting read"

    Having caught a brief episode of this book on Radio 4 I was intrigued enough to want to hear the whole thing. It has been worth every penny. It would have been cheap at twice the price. I laughed out loud almost from the start - the corgis were priceless. As a Librarian myself, I caught myself smiling and nodding at the mobile Librarian's reactions - would I have been so blase at meeting the Queen so unexpectedly? And the notion of the Queen reading in her carriage whilst appearing to wave. You must listen to this.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Helen FLEET, HAMPSHIRE, United Kingdom 21/10/2007
    Helen FLEET, HAMPSHIRE, United Kingdom 21/10/2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Gentle, amusing, easy listen"

    At some points reminiscent of 'The Queen & I' by Sue Townsend, the book concerns the consequences that follow when The Queen decides to take up reading, having discovered the Westminster Mobile Lending Library in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Very funny in places, with a more gentle humour in others. Bennett uses the premise to explore the virtues of reading (and later, writing), and recommends several of his favourite authors and books along the way. This was a gentle, undemanding listen, that passed the time nicely while driving around the country. At times I felt that Bennett had stretched the basic concept as far as it could go, but there is certainly much to recommend here.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer ilford, United Kingdom 13/04/2013
    Amazon Customer ilford, United Kingdom 13/04/2013 Member Since 2014

    I am a poetic writer who loves the way words paint a picture. I love the spoke word. My dream is to write, speak, and inspire others now.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Royal Gem"

    I have this book. I listened to it on Radio 4. But this complete work in the author's own voice was simply a superb gift to the literary senses. I was taken by Alan Bennett's delivery in his regional accent which was the beauty of listening to this book. He gave the story the authority to be. That the Queen becomes obsessed with books and makes the royal household change its sophisticated and rigid ways is a welcome vision for any Briton. I loved the antics and the nuances that placed the Queen right in the normal passenger seat like us mere mortals. Alan Bennett is a genius by far. I will be listening to this book for a very long time. I laughed out loud so much I found myself quite humorous in a very royal way. Lol. The small book is a giant and a royal gem.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debra 11/12/2011
    Debra 11/12/2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Author/Narrator"

    An excellent Alan Bennett story rises to another level when read by the man himself. He annunciates perfectly and adds subtle humour that another may have missed. I never tire of listening to this particular story and as a republican, find myself strangely sorry for the heroine of his tale, the Queen. Excellent listening.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Alcabideche, Portugal 20/04/2011
    Peter Alcabideche, Portugal 20/04/2011 Member Since 2012
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    "An uncommonly good listen"

    The audacious Mr Bennett at his very best.
    A brilliant story - brimming with his inimitable wit & sardonic humour and read as only he could read it.
    The twist in the tail was as unexpected as it was pure Bennett.
    A thoroughly recommended listen.
    I wonder why he hasn't appeared in the Honours list for this offering!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kate banbury, United Kingdom 17/04/2010
    kate banbury, United Kingdom 17/04/2010
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    "priceless"

    Bennett's 'butter-wouldn't-melt' delivery of this text is sublime. A wonderfully crafted story, entertainingly read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fenella Petersfield, Hampshire, United Kingdom 04/05/2008
    Fenella Petersfield, Hampshire, United Kingdom 04/05/2008 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Delightful"

    A truly delightful listen, just what the doctor ordered for relaxing, or accompanying me on a walk. I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mrs. Y. M. Mariess channel islands 26/02/2016
    Mrs. Y. M. Mariess channel islands 26/02/2016 Member Since 2016

    Yazzphoto

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    Performance
    Story
    "Great Alan, but..."

    As always, gentle quirky humour and a lovely story.

    But the quality of the recording was not as good as usual. Alan's lovely crisp voice quality was not there.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    chloe67 11/11/2015
    chloe67 11/11/2015 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Not to be missed"

    This Alan Bennett's story shows a side of the Queen rarely glimpsed, her being human, even if the story itself is fictional.
    Funny, endearing, touching, imaginative, you needn't be a royalist to enjoy it.
    Alan Bennett's narration is as always tremendously rewarding.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kate 07/06/2015
    kate 07/06/2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Quirky"
    What did you like most about The Uncommon Reader?

    Unpredictable, entertaining.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    Really enjoyed the end - didn't see it coming.


    Any additional comments?

    The musical interludes were irritating - and wake you at night when you have dozed off. Would have been way better without them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Angus
    New York, NY, USA
    03/11/07
    Overall
    "Poignant and full of wit."

    This is an excellent audio adaptation of a 2007 novella by English playwright, screenwriter and author Alan Bennett. It is read by Bennett himself and he does a wonderful job, subtly switching his voice to fit the different characters including the principal player: Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The story is set a year or two behind the present and imagines the Queen suddenly obsessed with reading literature. Although she has met many of the greatest names in modern English Literature (T. S. Eliot, Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes and the like), she has not up to been much of a reader. A chance encounter with a mobile library changes this and as a consequence changes her outlook on life and her role in the world. The blend of fact and fiction is seamless and there is a good sprinkling of jokes about the political landscape of Britain and the literary world in general. The humor is not overstated and Bennett avoids some of the more obvious comic possibilities. There are twists and turns in the story and I remained captivated right up to the closing words. With this download my iPod has trouble remembering where it was paused but the writing is so good that it doesn't hurt to listen to passages more than once.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Victoria
    Provo, UT, United States
    07/01/11
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "~I WANT TO READ!~"

    Queen Elizabeth was sorry she did not read more! So many years of possible wonders and discovery, learning and witnessing life of others are lost! But there still is the chance! There is time that can be used for reading, for example, when driving to the Buckingham Palace! And... and...

    Oh, I feel like I wanna read-read-read after I have listened to this superb edition of the book, read by the author himself! And it is indeed way deeper than it sounds from the description: though how could it be any different when the author is Alan Bennett himself? Oh, what an amazing voice, what a gorgeous English accent!!!

    The book also left me with a nostalgic aura: I want to be in London again, in a park, reading a good book.... I am happy I had it and can always go back to my memories: London, tea with milk and cookies and hours of uninterrupted reading: little can be more pristine and sweet than this :)

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Carole L.
    LexingtonVirgin Islands, U.S.
    05/02/10
    Overall
    "An Excellent Listen"

    Alan Bennett reading his lovely little novel - who could ask for more?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mary
    Bridgewater, NJ, United States
    03/03/08
    Overall
    "subtle fun, mostly"

    Slow starting but entertaining picture of the confines of political celebrity. Many funny instants, and no one should give away the ending!

    The reader did a good job.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Happy Yogi
    05/08/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Ho Hum"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    No, it was kind of boring.


    If you’ve listened to books by Alan Bennett before, how does this one compare?

    I haven't listened to books by him.


    Have you listened to any of Alan Bennett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    A friend of mine liked and recommended it. I trust her opinion, however in this case we didn't see eye to eye.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jeff
    Charlotte, N.C.
    07/04/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Alan Bennett is a world treasure"
    Any additional comments?

    I say don't miss anything written and narrated by this man. He is less material than a beam of light that will touch your soul. I am writing this to describe my reaction to "Uncommon Reader" but it goes for almost everything I have read by him. DO NOT PASS THIS OR HIS OTHER BOOKS BY.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • E. Pearson
    Idaho
    02/05/09
    Overall
    "Light and Thought-provoking"

    This was a nice break between two heavier classics I listened to. The characters were entirely believable--well, the Queen is obviously fictionalized, but believable nonetheless. Her innocence in the face of self-education through random book selection speaks for a return to an era when we all were a little more innocent, and simultaneously, involved.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • D.W. Hawk
    14/12/08
    Overall
    "Quaint, Whimsical, and Charming"

    There is something old-fashioned and nostalgic about the way this story is told. The pace is not frenetic. The humor is mature, dry at times, and clever. And by the story's end I was left with the feeling that I had just enjoyed a warm afternoon in the company of an dignified older female relative.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Vered
    Massechusetts, USA
    25/09/08
    Overall
    "Enjoyable listen"

    I think book lovers would find this an enjoyable listen. Amusing, and centered on reading.
    A. Bennet gives a perfect narration to his own writing.
    Made me think of all the books i might be missing.
    (now waiting for "My Dog Tulip" to be released as an audiobook).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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