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8 Reviews
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read for a patient reader.
Lemprière's Dictionary
When 'Lemprière's Dictionary' was originally published in 1991, the reviews were almost all favourable. Reading the novel years later in paperback, I agree that it is in most ways all that the critics said it was. It is not a quick or easy read and is clotted in some places with classical references perhaps extracted from the...
Published on 5 July 2001

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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unequal to the task imposed by his own ambition
The reviewers claimed this as a 'masterpiece' and a 'tour de force'. I don't know, to me it had the air of a book that had been struggled with over a long period and almost given up in despair several times. Although there were some good things in it, the pacing was rather pedestrian and both this and the novel's length mitigated against the generation of much...
Published on 9 Jun 2000 by ianbrown8


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read for a patient reader., 5 July 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Lemprière's Dictionary (Paperback)
Lemprière's Dictionary
When 'Lemprière's Dictionary' was originally published in 1991, the reviews were almost all favourable. Reading the novel years later in paperback, I agree that it is in most ways all that the critics said it was. It is not a quick or easy read and is clotted in some places with classical references perhaps extracted from the classical dictionary that provides its title. I presume that the writer had access to a copy of that reference book while he was conceiving and writing his own literary tapestry.
There are charming passages and some turgid parts; I liked his walks through old London and was impressed by his descriptions of ports and ships and by his overviews of periods and events in European history. There is less that I found comic but perhaps that is too personal.
What I often found myself troubled by was the recreation, complete with equally fictional father, of the original John Lemprière as the sniggering and not always attractive fictional character in the novel. The real life John Lemprière was first a schoolmaster and then an ordained minister of the Church of England. His dictionary remained popular into the twentieth century and can be found, at a price, through Amazon. I cannot but feel that the licence allowed for the writing of a historical novel has been somewhat exceeded.
I put the book down a number of times. But I picked it up again and was glad I did.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling, complex, erudite and witty novel., 7 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Lemprière's Dictionary (Paperback)
'Lempriere's Dictionary' is a fascinating novel, tying together many seemingly separate plots, and encompassing genres from the romantic, through the gothic, to the fantastic. The Lempriere's are a family with a dark history, a treasonous agreement valid in perpetuity haunts successive generations. Norfolk ties the mystery of the Lempriere's with a story of corruption at the heart of the East India Company, assassinations, strange deaths, and uncertain romance. Lempriere slaves away at a classical dictionary in order to purge his addled psyche, while revolution is afoot in France, in London, and above it all flies the charred figure of the Sprite of La Rochelle... The book is so spellbinding, that I felt sad once I had finished it, as if it's world had died. For this reason, don't borrow the book from a library, as you won't want to return it. Instead, shell out for your own copy, and I guarantee it will be on your bedside table in perpetuity.
Lawrence Norfolk is a brilliant novelist, and his books are complex, fascinating, full of energy, and intensely enjoyable. I recommend that you buy this and his earlier book, 'The Pope's Rhinocerous', a similarly good read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A soaring fantasy with full blooded intrigue, wit and humour, 21 April 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Lemprière's Dictionary (Paperback)
How on earth does Lawrence Norfolk keep so many threads going in a single story- the writing of Lempriere's classical treatise on Greek mythology, the founding of the East India Company, a beautiful love story between a stolen girl and a bespectacled academic. Racing from Paris to London to Jersey via tall ships and via soaring angelic spirits, this book uses history to springboard into complex fantastical creations. But despite the fantastical soaring, the emotions it portrays of the protagonists as they run through London's grimey 17th century streets, pursued by mythical maniacal monsters, are very much real and had me crying and laughing by turns. An incredible story - like Salman Rushdie's Shame if it had been written by Umberto Eco (if that makes sense!)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lempriere's Dictionary (author Lawrence Norfolk), 11 Aug 2010
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A dense, atmospheric and wide-ranging novel, full of invention and compexity. A great read for some quiet, sunny days...
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unequal to the task imposed by his own ambition, 9 Jun 2000
This review is from: Lemprière's Dictionary (Paperback)
The reviewers claimed this as a 'masterpiece' and a 'tour de force'. I don't know, to me it had the air of a book that had been struggled with over a long period and almost given up in despair several times. Although there were some good things in it, the pacing was rather pedestrian and both this and the novel's length mitigated against the generation of much suspense. Some ruthless editing could well have sharpened up its impact. As yet the author just didn't seem up to the task his own ambition had imposed. And in order to maintain interest in such a ludicrously convoluted plot, I think you need more vivid characterization - his people were just too pallidly drawn.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read for a patient reader., 5 July 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Lemprière's Dictionary (Paperback)
Lemprière's Dictionary
When 'Lemprière's Dictionary' was originally published in 1991, the reviews were almost all favourable. Reading the novel years later in paperback, I agree that it is in most ways all that the critics said it was. It is not a quick or easy read and is clotted in some places with classical references perhaps extracted from the classical dictionary that provides its title. I presume that the writer had access to a copy of that reference book while he was conceiving and writing his own literary tapestry.
There are charming passages and some turgid parts; I liked his walks through old London and was impressed by his descriptions of ports and ships and by his overviews of periods and events in European history. There is less that I found comic but perhaps that is too personal.
What I often found myself troubled by was the recreation, complete with equally fictional father, of the original John Lemprière as the sniggering and not always attractive fictional character in the novel. The real life John Lemprière was first a schoolmaster and then an ordained minister of the Church of England. His dictionary remained popular into the twentieth century... I cannot but feel that the licence allowed for the writing of a historical novel has been somewhat exceeded.
I put the book down a number of times. But I picked it up again and was glad I did.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lempriere's dictionary, 20 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Lemprière's Dictionary (Paperback)
I started this book with great hopes, but after a short while struggled to understand what really was going on. There must have been a plot but it was impossible for me to find. However I persevered but it was a titanic struggle to finish the book in the hopes of finding what really went on. I was out of luck. Prior to buying this book I had thought to buy a copy of his more recent book but didn't.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, 21 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Lemprière's Dictionary (Paperback)
Arrived quickly and was as described by vendor. Looking forward to reading it as I have enjoyed others by this author
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Lemprière's Dictionary
Lemprière's Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk (Paperback - 2 July 1992)
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