Sunday, November 18, 2007

We are amused

Having been Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, etc., etc. for over 55 years now, Elizabeth II is one of the most recognizable figures in the world today. And lately she has been taking on more of a pop culture status, as her personal life seems fair game for artistic license. English novelist and Beyond the Fringe alum Alan Bennett has used the Queen as the protagonist for his new novel: The Uncommon Reader. In this book, Elizabeth ducks into a bookmobile (or 'mobile library' as they are called in the UK) following her irritating corgis. On impulse, she checks out a book, and her life is transformed by the joy of reading. As her reading tastes flourish, she begins to look at her life - and life in general - differently, to the consternation of her staff and the government. Bennett manages to put in a lot of sly humor about the monarchy, British institutions, and the growing attitude that readers are 'elitist'. Despite the less-than-flattering premise of the book (that until the bookmobile incident, she never read), the Queen comes off as a rather endearing character with a good heart and a quick wit. I don't know if Bennett has close knowledge of the Queen, or if he is just reflecting the ingrained British attitude towards the sovereign, but he appears quite fond of Her Majesty. As for the ending of the book....well, what a jaw-dropper.

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