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Publisher's Summary

National Best Seller

"You wouldn’t expect a comic novel about a dictionary to be a thriller too, but this one is. In fact, [it] is also a mystery, love story (two of them) and cliffhanging melodrama." (The New York Times Book Review)

An award-winning novel that chronicles the charming 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.

In the final year of the nineteenth century, Peter Winceworth is toiling away at the letter S for Swansby’s multivolume Encyclopaedic Dictionary. But his disaffection with his colleagues compels him to assert some individual purpose and artistic freedom, and he begins inserting unauthorized, fictitious entries. In the present day, Mallory, the publisher’s young intern, starts to uncover these mountweazels in the process of digitization and through them senses their creator’s motivations, hopes, and desires. More pressingly, she’s also been contending with a threatening, anonymous caller who wants Swansby’s staff to “burn in hell”. As these two narratives coalesce, Winceworth and Mallory, separated by one hundred years, must discover how to negotiate the complexities of life’s often untrustworthy, hoax-strewn, and undefinable path. An exhilarating, laugh-out-loud debut, The Liar’s Dictionary celebrates the rigidity, fragility, absurdity, and joy of language while peering into questions of identity and finding one’s place in the world.

©2021 Eley Williams (P)2021 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: LGBTQ+

Critic Reviews

One of NPR's Best Books of the Year

An Indie Next Pick, B&N Discover Pick, and Amazon Best Book of the Month

“You wouldn’t expect a comic novel about a dictionary to be a thriller too, but this one is. In fact, Eley Williams’s hilarious new book, The Liar’s Dictionary, is also a mystery, love story (two of them) and cliffhanging melodrama.... A thoughtful inquiry into truth and meaning.” (The New York Times Book Review

“An audacious, idiosyncratic dual love story about how language and people intersect and connect, and about how far we'll go to save what we're passionate about.... Showcases a delight in language that evokes both Nabokov and - more on point with its mix of playfulness, profundity, warmth, and heart - Ali Smith.” (NPR) 

"Delightful.... Underneath this novel’s extremely bookish mystery is the idea that our identities are as improvisatory as the words we affix to them, and that even the dictionary, the most seemingly staid and impartial arbiter of truth, is an ‘unreliable narrator.'" (The Wall Street Journal

What listeners say about The Liar's Dictionary

Average Customer Ratings
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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

The liar’s Dictionary

Unsympathetic characters. Dialogue for woman is annoying in that she digresses a great deal. It’s one thing to love words. It’s another to use them to hide behind. Found male character’s use of lisp an affectation that was unworthy of his intellect.
While it’s not my job to analyze either, I spent too much time in their company. I stayed the course since I was driving, but cannot day I’d recommend the book overall.

11 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Meh

Production was well done, but I found the bloviating Brits to be simply uninteresting. If you’re driven by Story, this is not the book for you. If you like wordplay, it might well be for you, but it definitely wasn’t the book for me.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Good performance, boring story

I thought this would be fun but it ended up being pretty boring. Kept waiting for it to get better and it never did. Ironically, and I suppose not surprisingly, the story could have been told in half the number of words 🤷🏼‍♂️

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Did not capture my attention

The characters were uninteresting and dull. Much more could have been done with the story arc connecting the two main characters.
Halfway through I sped up the narration just to finish the book. There was little suspense in the story even with the opportunity to create some.
Even though I thought the performance was very good, I would not recommend.

2 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Very difficult read/listen.

I tried reading this. I gave up so I tried Audible. I stuck to it to the end but wouldn't recommend it to pretty much anyone I know.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Charming surprise!

What a find! As an inveterate word snob, I was delighted to come across this little gem. I gobbled it up in one sitting! So many precious words! The story has just enough intrigue to move things along without upsetting the library air. There are happy little surprises and a marvelously startling turn. The narration is pleasing to the ear, with precise diction and excellent phrasing. Both actors gave no hint they were "reading." Altogether, a treat!

1 person found this helpful

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Lush language highlights plot

This book was clever and well thought out as well as seeped in beautiful language. Definitely a literate pleasure!
The style and the language fit playfully with the plot line. It’s rare to find an author who can do that. Cant wait to read the next book. 😊

1 person found this helpful

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Words that should and should not be

If you love words and their origins and ever thought there should be a word for some odd thing, you should give this book a try.

There is no big drama, just collections of small moments in different points in time at the office of a struggling dictionary.

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Excellent book for those who love words. Well read

This is a fun book for people who play with words and love the history and story of them. The readers are skilled, the story is well paced, and the characters are well done.

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Thanks for curing my insomia!

I try to give a book at least 2 hours before making a judgement one way or the other, but this was so dreadfully dull I barely made an hour. While I loved "A Dictionary of Lost Words," this was not even in the same ballpark. Reading the actual dictionary has more interest and story.