If you should find yourself with a couple of hours to spare, you could do much worse than to spend them with a copy of The Uncommon Reader and the beverage of your choice. As a 120-page novella, it could be easily consumed in a single sitting - I wish I'd had the opportunity to read it that way. For me, it was in nibbles over the course of a week, but I don't think that lessened my enjoyment of this book, which I would truly describe as "a joy."
Although I can't imagine what it would be like to reach one's seventh decade without having known the delights of reading, this story of the Queen of England's late-in-life discovery of them was something I could understand - and celebrate. Details like tucking a book into her handbag and getting off-schedule because she couldn't pull herself away from her reading were very familiar.
The Queen's staff are none too pleased with her new preoccupation, and not just because of the schedule disruptions; it's made her much more unpredictable in general. I found her staff's efforts to curtail her reading some of the most amusing parts of the story. When it's suggested that the Queen's attempts to engage people in discussions about books and reading might be seen as elitist...well, she's the Queen. If anyone is permitted to be elitist, it's the Queen, if you ask me. (And if reading is an elitist pursuit, then I am very pleased to be an elitist myself, thank you very much.)
One aspect of the book that greatly appealed to me was that, as her reading became more discriminating, the Queen began to develop a sense of compassion and insight into human nature that she didn't think she'd had before. Since one of the reasons I particularly love fiction is that it gives me the chance to get inside characters' heads and see how other people tick, I enjoyed seeing that it seemed to affect the Queen in a similar way.
While I seem to be focusing on heavier thematic elements here, I should make clear that The Uncommon Reader is, at the same time, a breezy, engaging, and at times very funny read. I truly enjoyed it, and my copy is going to be a keeper - although I think there's a good chance I'll be buying copies of it for other people.