Fabulous Fiction Firsts #763
Tue, 01/12/2021 - 4:10pm by muffy
The Liar's Dictionary * by a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Eley Williams (also available in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is “simultaneously a love story, an office comedy, a sleuth mystery and a slice of gaslit late Victoriana…” (The Guardian)
Mallory, a young intern and the sole employee of the Swansby’s multivolume Encyclopaedic Dictionary is tasked by the current director, 70 year-old David Swansby to identify all the Mountweazel (n. the phenomenon of false entries within dictionaries and works of reference) in preparation for digitization of the second edition. In between, she spends her time memorizing stationary labels in the supply closet while eating her lunch, and fielding phone calls by somebody threatening to blow up the building.
And mountweazel she finds with the help of her “flatmate” (lover), Pip, lots of them. They were the work of Peter Winceworth, Victorian lexicographer, who, in 1899 was toiling away at the letter S for Swansby’s, “in bored anonymity, speaking with an affected lisp and infatuated with the fiancée of his coworker and archnemesis… Buried beneath the torrents of puns and linguistic riffing is a story about two people from different eras connected by the thread of language, free to invent and repurpose words as they please, but who are less adept at navigating that far more indefinable terrain: the human heart.” (Library Journal)
“The author combines a Nabokovian love of wordplay with an Ali Smith--like ability to create eccentric characters who will take up permanent residence in the reader's heart. This is a sheer delight for word lovers.”(Publishers Weekly)
* = Starred review