Summer reading: The Uncommon Reader

A galloping, cheeky little tale by the author of "The History Boys," about the mayhem that ensues when the Queen of England (yes, that one) falls in love with reading at an advanced age. The ending rolled in far too quickly, and caught me completely unawares, and with it the corners of my mouth danced up, up, up. Thoroughly charmed, I'm sure.

Here's a snippet, all buttoned high in monarchical propriety:

'Reading, ma'am.'

'I beg your pardon.'

'Your Majesty has started reading.'

'No, Sir Claude. One has always read. Only these days one is reading more.'

Now of course, she knew why he had come and who had put him up to it, and from being an object wholly of pity this witness to half her life now took his place among her persecutors; all compassion fled and she recovered her composure.

'I see no harm in reading itself, ma'am.'

'One is relieved to hear it.'

'It's when it's carried to extremes. There's the mischief.'

'Are you suggesting one ration one's reading?'

'Your Majesty has led such an exemplary life and that it should be reading that has taken Your Majesty's fancy is almost by the way. Had you invested in any pursuit with similar fervour, eyebrows must have been raised.'

'They might. But then one has spent one's life not raising eyebrows. One feels sometimes that that is not much of a boast.'

Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader: A Novella