We have two books this month in our reading group because one of them is very short.
An Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is an odd little book. Alan Bennett is a well known playwright and wrote quite an acclaimed series of monologues for television which won lots of awards but which I had never seen because they didn't appeal to me. The only work of his I have knowingly seen was the film of The History Boys which I loved and wished I'd seen when it was on the stage.
The Uncommon Reader of the title is the Queen who comes upon a mobile library at the back of the kitchens at Buckingham Palace whilst chasing after an errant corgi. Deciding to take a peek inside she meets a kitchen servant and takes a book out on his recommendation. This begins a love affair with reading which she finds challenges her staff somewhat. As I read it I realised I wasn't really 'getting it' and it was faintly annoying me but carried on anyway to the end. The end was worth it. The last two lines of the book were, I felt, magical. I laughed out loud.
This is not something I can say about our second choice One Day by David Nicholls. One Day is a best selling book that has just been made into a film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. I didn't like it. My niece, who is twenty-one, said she was finding it quite difficult to get into although she is persevering with it and Mrs Pao was disappointed with it. I agree with Mrs Pao in that it doesn't deliver what it promises but also I felt quite depressed after reading it. I do realise that as it has been made into a high profile film I might be in the minority here but that was the effect it had on me.
The story centres on Emma and Dexter a couple of opposite characters who get together for a one night stand at the end of their very different degrees at Edinburgh university. Despite an obvious attraction they go their separate ways although they keep in touch with each other over the years and become firm friends. The premise of the title One Day is that we meet them on the same day every year over a period of about twenty years. We find out where they are, what they are doing, who they are with, their ups and downs and what developments their relationship goes through. As Mrs Pao says 'a snapshot' of their lives. But I found it to be messy. Because they don't necessarily meet up on this 'one day', the 364 days in-between need to be brought in some how so that we know what has been happening to them. And a lot happens to them as well as lots changes to the relationship between them. It all gets a bit muddled.
Many years ago, late 70s I think, I saw a film called Same Time, Same Place starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn in which a couple who are married, but not to each other, meet and have an affair. The affair ends but they decide to meet up every year on a certain day. They meet only on that day. They have no contact in between other than to make arrangements. The happenings of the intervening time is shown through their conversations, their moods and of course how they age. Perhaps this sort of scenario works better visually. I liked the film even though there was a certain sadness about it. It's a film I always said I would watch again and although I never have I remember it with a certain fondness. I rather wish I hadn't read One Day.