Category Archives: Book of the Month

The Adventure of English

Melvyn Bragg UCL

My favourite word of the moment is ‘Mountweazel’. My curious fingertips stumbled across this short article in the New Yorker from 2005 which explains Mountweazels more succinctly than I ever could. Did you know that dictionaries often add in fictitious words as a copyright trap? The article states that the 2005 edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary contains a made-up word beginning with ‘E’ and a shortlist of six possible Mountweazels surfaced and the list was sent to various lexicography experts and they (correctly) agreed that the word ‘esquivalience’ was the imposter (I admit, of the list, that’s not the one I would have chosen!). I summoned my Dictionary programme that lies in the dock area of my Mac and typed in ‘esquivalience’ and there lies a definition consistent with the false entry from the NOAD:

Esquivalience

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The Paying Guests Book Review

The Paying Guests
Sarah Waters is a brilliant story teller. We’re in Camberwell in 1922 for her latest novel The Paying Guests. Our protagonist is Frances Wray, a spinster in her mid-twenties who lives with her mother in their large house. They have divided it up to rent out some of the rooms to a young married couple, Mr and Mrs Barber, to help pay for the running of the property. So far, so straightforward.

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‘Letters of Note’ Review

Letters of Note

You will have heard of Letters of Note. It has been an online sensation that has divulged the secret thoughts of significant figures in history by publishing their clandestine letters. A collection of otherwise undisclosed feelings and ideas between fascinating characters and interesting people. Now there’s a book, a beautiful, illustrated, hardback book.

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Dept. of Speculation book review

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Any review of the Dept. of Speculation is going to fall spectacularly short of successfully conveying what the book is about, simply because the pleasure of the story lies in the poetry of Jenny Offill’s words. A couple get married and have a baby in Brooklyn, New York. They manage the inanities of everyday life but relationships become complicated. We read it through the thoughts of the narrator / heroine, who always “thinks of saying” and whose forces are internalised.

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World Book Day

Favourite books

Happy World Book Day! To celebrate, I’ve chosen five of my favourite books. I think each one represents a different point in an evolving literary canon and highlights the way that literature has the power to change us as people.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Everyone must read this book.  It is significant as it marks the start of the rise of the novel in the eighteenth century and sets out various literary conventions value in novels today. A brilliant story.

The American by Henry James

Beautiful and eloquent. If you love learning new words read it with a notebook to make your own mini dictionary!

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

My favourite Conrad book: if you enjoy modern espionage, you’ll want to read this one.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

By far the funniest book I’ve ever read.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Just read it.