Monday, July 12, 2010

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Asenault

Jonathan Sanchez – the owner with his wife of The Blue Bicycle Bookshop in Charleston, SC and a good friend – recommended this book when I was last in his shop about 8 months ago. I am sorry I took so long getting to it! This is the first book I bought on his recommendation, but he is now in that trusted circle of friends from whom I will accept suggestions without question.

Arsenault has written a neat, tidy little who-dun-it. I know! I am contradicting myself! Only four books separate this and the Chandler where I declared I did not like this genre. Without reading the dust jacket too closely – which I usually do – I started reading it. I was intrigued from the first page, and after about 25 I stopped and read the dust jacket. Lucky I swerved from my usual habit on this occasion.

The story involves two 20-something recent college grads who take a job for lack of anything better at a dictionary company as lexicographers. Samuel Johnson defined a lexicographer as, “A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.”

The disappointing part of this book is that these young people aren’t more enthusiastic about what surrounds them in their jobs. I think it would be fascinating work. But then I love dictionaries and words. One sentence near the end struck me: “Don’t hate words. Hate the people who misuse them.” (347)

One jacket blurb compared it to A.S. Byatt’s Possession. While I wouldn’t go that far, this was a delightful, witty, and entertaining book. I read it in two afternoons. Arsenault’s prose has a fluidity about it. Only one minor “bend” in the story prevents me from giving it five stars, but I do give it high praise. Excellent reading for a hot, lazy, summer day. 4 stars

--Chiron, 7/12/10

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