The Uncommon Reader
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
In conventional fairy tales, a humble being is transformed into a noble one, but in The Uncommon Reader
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Alan Bennett's comic fable about the forbidden pleasures of serious reading, the status-magic works in reverse. Thanks to an accidental visit to a mobile lending library parked on a side street behind her palace, HRH Queen Elizabeth develops a sudden consuming interest in literature that, by gratifying her longings for imaginative freedom and social anonymity, turns her into a human being. No one is amused, of course, by Her Majesty's mental metamorphosis—least of all the stuffy establishment that wants to keep her in her gilded cage—but such is the power of the written word that it can liberate the spirit of even the most exalted intellectual prisoners.
— Walter Kirn