I thought it would make sense to post this review on World Book Day.
What’s better for a book lover than a book about books? It’s like when Xzbit in Pimp My Ride puts a car inside of your car because he knows you love cars.
And Alan Bennett puts books in your book. He also puts the Queen there, so you know you are in for a treat.
Imagine that the Queen, old as she is, suddenly discovers the joy of reading. She engages a certain Nelson to help her acquire books and guide her through the world of literature. That does sound like a dream job, doesn’t it? To become someone’s personal literary adviser. The Queen is a perfect student, too. Her thirst for books in unquenchable. She doesn’t want to talk about anything else but books and tortures her subjects constantly asking their opinions on this author or another. Don’t I know what it’s like! My friends often shout desperately: ’can we talk about something other than books!?’ To which I say: ‘Sure, fine. What did you have for breakfast then?’. It's only here, on goodreads, that I feel I am understood.
Bennett beautifully describes the progress we make as readers, how every book sets a bar higher and we are able to take on more complex and ambitious books. That, of course, will never happen if you just read paranormal romance for the rest of your days.
Bennett also proposes a thesis that reading must eventually lead to writing. He believes in supremacy of writing over reading, believes it to be somewhat nobler than reading. I am not sure I agree with this. It takes a whole lot of self-control, modesty (and obviously being a better person than I am) to be satisfied with reading only and not have that grandiose need to write.
It was also quite brave of Bennett to take on the Queen as his heroine. And to make her into a human being as well! I applaud you, sir.
To be honest with you, if there was a good thing about growing up in a communist country it was that absolute certainty that people are equal. And then I came to UK. I find this whole business of Royal Family and aristocracy extremely funny/sad. In my work I deal with quite a lot of Lords and Ladies and such and was trained in addressing them correctly. I thought it was very cute and funny until I realized that my employers were actually for real. Until I saw the CEO assuming a very submissive tone when speaking to the Earl of ThisorThat. It made me want to scream – it is 21st century! These people are not ACTUALLY better than us! Their blood is really red, not blue! Are you all crazy?