With all the Jubilee palaver going on this year, I have tended to avoid anything to do with the current Royal Family, so I probably wouldn’t have read this if it had been written by anyone else but Alan Bennett.
I picked this up to take with me on Thursday because it was short. I was expected a fun, light read. It’s a shame I was teaching ten year-olds because otherwise I would have quoted whole passages to them.
Bennett is, famously, the boy who was saved by reading; a point he makes again and again in his work. I love it in The History Boys when Hector says “The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours”.
The premise here is very similar. The Queen is drowning in a sea of official visits. Then she discovers reading. And it changes her life. The palace officials are suspicious that her mind is no longer on the affairs of state. They are right to be so as she has discovered something further reaching and more important. It is a sense of perspective which can only be achieved when you have been able to put yourself in another person’s shoes. And the best way of doing that is through reading.