The Uncommon Reader arrived yesterday. I read it when it was first published and this is a gift copy but I couldn't resist it and re-read the whole thing last night. Which is easy to do because it's short and very sly and dry.
I had forgotten that Her Majesty begins her reading with Ivy Compton-Burnett. I'm reading Ivy right now, in chronological order to watch her develop and change, so I know she isn't always easy going. The queen choosing her book because she remembers "I made her a dame" is just the sort of illogical way so many of us pick what to read next. Not that we are making authors dames but we all have discovered books that were lagniappe given us by Chance.
I particularly like the sort of Greek chorus provided by the Duke of Edinburgh, who doesn't approve of this reading business at all. And the difficulties of being a dedicated reader when you are the queen can be serious. When she is off giving The Queen's Speech at Westminster she tucks her book behind a pillow in the coach. But when she gets back it's not there.
When they arrived at the palace she had a word with Grant, the young footman in charge, who said it was security and that while ma'am had been in the Lords the sniffer dogs had been round and security had confiscated the book. He thought it had probably been exploded.
"Exploded?" said the Queen. "But it was Anita Brookner."
I'll bet Anita Brookner had a giggle over that.
Alan Bennett is a national treasure.