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The Liars Dictionary by Eley Williams


The Liars Dictionary by Eley Williams
Published in: 2020
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★]

This ARC was provided by Random House UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

We need a word for a book you really should love based on the description but that you actually like not love…

Synopsis from Goodreads: Mountweazel  n. the phenomenon of false entries within dictionaries and works of reference. Often used as a safeguard against copyright infringement.

Peter Winceworth, a disaffected Victorian lexicographer, inserts false entries into a dictionary – violating and subverting the dictionary’s authority – in an attempt to assert some sense of individual purpose and artistic freedom. In the present day, Mallory, a young overworked and underpaid intern employed by the dictionary’s publishing house, is tasked with uncovering these entries before the work is digitised. As the novel progresses and their narratives combine, as Winceworth imagines who will find his fictional words in an unknown future and Mallory discovers more about the anonymous lexicographer’s life through the clues left in his fictitious entries, both discover how they might negotiate the complexities of an absurd, relentless, untrustworthy, hoax-strewn, undefinable life.

Braiding together contemporary and historical narratives, the novel explores themes of trust, agency and creativity, celebrating the rigidity, fragility and absurdity of language.

My Thoughts: I liked this book I just didn’t love it which is a shame as based on the description this should have been a passionate love affair.

I love the idea of “mountweazels” and I can totally see the point of using them. I can imagine the hilarity felt if someone has been copying your work and includes your fake word in fact if I was still in education I would be tempted to slip in some of my own to see if anyone spotted them.

Each chapter is named after a word in the dictionary from A – Z and the narrative voice alternates with each chapter so far so good – unfortunately the best bits of each chapter for me were the new words I learned and seeing how Winceworth would define his made up words. The characters just didn’t work for me, they felt kind of flat and I didn’t find any of them likeable.

The situations the characters found themselves in also seemed farcical and read to me as if they had been added in to give the story more colour, personally I don’t think they were necessary they detracted from the central narratives rather than adding to them.

Overall this was an interesting book to read, it was certainly educational but I felt it was trying too hard to be something it wasn’t. That said lots of other people really liked this so I would suggest read it and make up your own mind.

Who would like this? I would recommend this to those who like their reading to be erudite, who appreciate learning new words and who don’t need their characters to be likeable.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

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