Lemprière’s Dictionary Paperback – 2 Jul 1992
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"Historical fiction of mesmerizing complexity... It is a masterpiece" (Daily Mail)
"A love story and a story of fantastic adventure, it is also a hugely comic novel" (Sunday Times)
"A dazzling linguistic and formal achievment" (Salman Rushdie)
"Poised, superbly inventive and gripping. With Lemprière's Dictionary the precocious author has catapulted himself into the premier league of English fiction writing" (Observer)
"Extravagantly spectacular...myriad wonders and pleasures abound....superbly entertaining" (Washington Post)
A seductive puzzle that wends its way through history, politics, literature and the yearnings of the human heart...See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
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.
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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When 'Lemprière's Dictionary' was originally published in 1991, the reviews were almost all favourable.Read more