This book recounts a tale so improbable that as fiction it would have been hard to believe. Two Victorian lives become entwined. On the one hand, a great scholar who has bettered himself through learning, a man of towering reputation and influence; on the other, a millionaire madman whose delusional grip on reality has failed him and left him isolated in a lunatic asylum, a continent away from his family, with only his books for company. Somehow their paths collide, and for years they work at a distance to create together the greatest reference book in the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary. Eventually they meet, and their rapport blossoms into true friendship. A strange story unfolds, of gothic madness, violence, improbable love and eventual disintegration. At times uplifting, at others rather muted, this book can at times be unevenly paced; but overall it is a very rewarding read.