This I bought for someone for Christmas and then kept it myself. In it, the Queen (the one with corgis) suddenly discovers reading and begins to enjoy it. From not knowing where to start, she is advised by a member of the kitchen staff (they met in the travelling library in the grounds of the Palace) whom she promotes to her amanuensis, and they recommend each other books as they discover them. Time for reading plays havoc with her official duties, and is heartily disliked by her staff and the corgis, not to mention the Prime Minister. Of course, the book is really about the pleasures of reading:
'I don't see', said the Queen, '... Why should the public care what I am reading? The Queen reads. That is all they need to know. "So what?" I should imagine is the general response.'
'To read is to to withdraw. To make oneself unavailable. One would feel easier about it' said Sir Kevin,' if the pursuit were less ... selfish.'
'Perhaps I should say solipsistic.'
'Perhaps you should.'
Sir Kevin plunged on.'Were we able to harness your reading to some larger purpose - the literacy of the nation as a whole, for instance, the improvement of reading standards of the young...'
'One reads for pleasure,' said the Queen. 'It is not a public duty.'
'Perhaps', said Sir Kevin, 'it should be.'
'Bloody cheek,' said the Duke, when she told him that night.
It's a small book, an easy read, gently poking fun at the monarchy as an institution, especially the officials who surround and restrict her, at the Queen and her aloofness and lack of emotion, while attempting to show a potential for humour and understanding of human life which she does not show through her official life, (or how her character might have developed if she was more of a reader).
While the end (I won't spoil it) comes with both a surprise and a threat from the Queen, as written by Bennett, it also comes with an (unanticipated but gentle) warning to the Queen.