The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett : book club discussion questions

by Alan Bennett is available as one of the Gold Coast Library Service’s book club kits.

**Please be aware that book discussion questions may contain plot spoilers**


This comic novella concerns the changes in the life of the Queen when she begins to patronise the mobile library which visits the kitchens of Buckingham Palace on Wednesday mornings. Reading becomes almost an obsession for her, much to the discomfort of her courtiers. It is peppered through with reflections on English society, the nature of the monarchy, and the power of recreational reading.

Discussion Questions:

How widely do you think the Queen in the novel differs from the actual Queen? Do you think the role of the monarch taxes her as much as Bennett’s Queen?

Bennett often uses the Queen as a mouthpiece, to deliver pithy lines. Which of his quotable lines resonates most with you?

Is the culture he depicts in the book a fair reflection of modern society, in Australia if not in Britain?

Have you read any of the books suggested to the Queen? Did you find them improving? Is the idea that classics improve the reader accurate, historically outmoded, or both?

Why do English authors bang on so about Dickens?  Has Australia an equivalent to Dickens?

What’s Norman’s role in the story? Is he believable as a character?

In the month this was written, Tony Abbot restored loyalty to the Queen to the ministerial Oath of Office. Do books like this, which highlight the humanity of the person that holds the office, detract from the role the person must play?