The Queen has turned to books, and the books, in turn, have got to the Queen. From a rather dull performer of duty she turns to a ferocious reader, avoiding, taking shortcuts or adapting her duties to accommodate for her reading. Obviously, Alan Bennett’s novel is highly fictional and certainly not really about the Queen.

Next to the Queen, kitchenboy, later page, than send-off to the University of East Anglia functions as counterpart to the Queen and second protagonist. He has always been reading and now gets a chance to introduce the Queen into the world of literature, quite often gay literature. While at the beginning the Queen lives the more worldly life, it is Norman who through books may know more about the world, even though he has not travelled very far. Through her reading, the Queem becomes more and worldly on the inside and finally feels that she may have overtaken her former tutor, who just then has been sent off to East Anglia by courtiers disliking the Queens reading habit. That the equerry and even the Prime Minister are afraid that reading may actually change the status quo is a quaint but unrealistic thought.

Finally, the Queen turns to writing herself. Interesting, because she who once had a very limited view of the world and only grew through reading now feels her voice needs to be heard and starts producing her own literature. Is this arrogance, because none of her fresh insights appear to have their source in herself but rather in other people’s books? Or is it a subtle comment on the power of reading that lies not merely in conveying new thoughts, but more importantly in drawing new ideas and insights from thoughts and experiences having lain dormant in the reader.

Be that as it may – this is a novel about reading, not about the Queen.