Jump to content

Recommended Posts

The Liar's Dictionary brings together two parallel narratives. Mallory is a young gay woman, working as the sole assistant to David Swansby, proprieter of Swansby's (famously incomplete) Dictionary. They are creating a digitised version of the dictionary, updating the definitions for the 21st Century but refusing to add or subtract from the lexicon. They know they can't compete with the OED, Chambers or Collins so they celebrate Swansby's quirkiness. 

And Mallory works in the same grand building overlooking St James's Park in which the Dictionary was born in the 19th Century. The second narrative follows Winceworth, a clerk on the first staff of the dictionary, researching and sorting definitions. Winceworth pretends to have a lisp and seems to be in awe of some of his more dashing colleagues. 

Oh, and Mallory is trying to identify and expunge the words that Winceworth made up all those years ago and smuggled into the catalogue alongside the genuine words. And someone is threatening to blow up Swansby House.

This seems like a rather flimsy vehicle for parading a long list of puns, obscure definitions and other heavily-worn research. The characters never feel real; it is unclear initially that the two narratives are separated in time; and the plot is chock-full of holes and coincidences while the characters do things that seem to have no motive or rational explanation. Example: Winceworth sees a girl he met at a party the previous night (the fiancee of a colleague) wresting a pelican in the park. Winceworth decides to join in, ends up drenched in pelican blood, runs into the very work colleague whose fiancee he has assisted in a cafe when they should both have been at work. The colleague decides to prank Winceworth by sending him on a fool's errand to Barking to meet an unknown person at an unspecified place and time to discuss the etymology of Barking - whereupon he is caught up in an explosion. 

The parallels between the stories feel contrived - the explosions; the partners of Swansby staff showing up uninvited to Swansby House and wandering around floors that are off limits; the precarious financial position of the dictionary... 

This felt like a really long read - it was so easy to get distracted by more interesting things - walking the dog, washing up, doing on-line jigsaw puzzles, etc. It's not that it was particularly bad, it's just it didn't have anything to really engage this reader.

 

**000

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As usual, I thank you for reviewing the books you didn't really like, too, so I can avoid them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 15/07/2020 at 00:22, Binker said:

As usual, I thank you for reviewing the books you didn't really like, too, so I can avoid them.

Could bite you one day :)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 18/07/2020 at 08:10, Clavain said:

Could bite you one day :)

 

 

The worst that could happen by avoiding a book based on a bad review is that you miss out on something that you might have enjoyed. But as long as you read something else that was enjoyable, it's no biggie. We vaunt read everything. 

 

But on the other hand, there's much more danger from picking a book based on a good review - think of the time and money you'd lose if the book doesn't work for you.

 

Generally, I know there are some readers whose tastes match mine quite closely and I pay their reviews a lot of attention. I also know there are some readers whose tastes seem to be polar opposite to mine - and I also pay their reviews a lot of attention :D 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 27/07/2020 at 14:08, MisterHobgoblin said:

 

The worst that could happen by avoiding a book based on a bad review is that you miss out on something that you might have enjoyed. But as long as you read something else that was enjoyable, it's no biggie. We vaunt read everything. 

 

But on the other hand, there's much more danger from picking a book based on a good review - think of the time and money you'd lose if the book doesn't work for you.

 

Generally, I know there are some readers whose tastes match mine quite closely and I pay their reviews a lot of attention. I also know there are some readers whose tastes seem to be polar opposite to mine - and I also pay their reviews a lot of attention :D 

Have a lot of respect for your reviews Mr HG, you have put me on to many many books I've read and loved. I only meant that comment because this book had garnered many good reviews.  Your tastes sometimes don't match mine and was hoping someone else  (like Binker) may have a different view. Guess I will have to read it and find out :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Clavain, I look forward to hearing what you think. I have always liked everything I have read on Mr. HG's recommendation and he always gives his reasons for not liking a book.  They are usually ones that would make me not like it, too.  So that's why I take the risk. Also, I'm impressed that he finishes these books he doesn't end up liking.  I have a friend who has to finish every book she starts and my mother was like that, too.  I admire that quality, but do not emulate it.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 30/07/2020 at 17:44, Binker said:

Clavain, I look forward to hearing what you think. I have always liked everything I have read on Mr. HG's recommendation and he always gives his reasons for not liking a book.  They are usually ones that would make me not like it, too.  So that's why I take the risk. Also, I'm impressed that he finishes these books he doesn't end up liking.  I have a friend who has to finish every book she starts and my mother was like that, too.  I admire that quality, but do not emulate it.

 

Not sure if that's true, I have memories of book reviews where you have disagreed but honestly is it worth trolling back 6 years. Do agree with the commendation for reading books that you find hard going or start not to like. Guess then you speed read.

Whatever, Mr HG please keep going where no one has gone before and look at the ones we have. :)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 15/07/2020 at 00:22, Binker said:

As usual, I thank you for reviewing the books you didn't really like, too, so I can avoid them.

And for all the reviews you post Mr HG. I've said before I rarely respond to them but I do read them and if they interest me they get added to my reading list. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...