The Liar's Dictionary

A Novel

hardcover, 288 pages

Published Jan. 12, 2021 by Doubleday.


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3 stars (1 review)

An exhilarating and laugh-out-loud debut novel from a prize-winning new talent which chronicles the misadventures of a lovelorn Victorian lexicographer and the young woman put on his trail a century later to root out his misdeeds while confronting questions of her own sexuality and place in the world.

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

Peter Winceworth, Victorian lexicographer, is toiling away at the letter S for Swansby's multivolume Encyclopaedic Dictionary. His disaffection compels him to insert unauthorized fictitious entries into the dictionary in an attempt to assert some sense of individual purpose and artistic freedom.

In the present day, Mallory, a young intern employed by the publisher, is tasked with uncovering these mountweazels before the work is digitized. She also has to contend with threatening phone calls from an anonymous caller. Is the change in …

8 editions

maybe if you adore words and etymology

3 stars

I wanted to love this, I really did. Words! Etymology! Dictionaries!!! Split timelines across centuries, mysterious phone calls, lovers, queer women! LONDON!!! And yet. And yet it was a bit too infatuated with the mysteries of words and dictionaries and slipperiness, nearly all of the characters in the 19c plot are annoying af, and many of the 21c ones are too. It did make me want to reread that Simon Winchester book about the OED, though, so I guess that's a point in its favor?