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Sunday, October 17, 2021


It should take pride of place on your coffee table and be readily available for all to enjoy and marvel at the magnificence of the many Karoo architectural gems displayed in the book. (Review by Keith Millar)

While the title of this impressive tome may be Hidden Karoo, the book itself should never be hidden. It should take pride of place on your coffee table and be readily available for all to enjoy and marvel at the magnificence of the many Karoo architectural gems displayed in the book.

The book is a substantial and important photographic record of the built environment of the vast arid land which dominates central South Africa.

It chronicles many of the restored and sometimes derelict historical buildings found in the towns and villages of the Karoo. It covers everything from farms, churches, public building, private homes, mansions, and military blockhouses, and all against the backdrop of the huge and awe-inspiring landscapes of the Karoo.

The creator of this book, Patricia Kramer, travelled far and wide throughout the area to research her subject material. The area covered is so vast, that for the purpose of the book it has been divided into eight separate districts, each with its own distinct character.

The photography is by Alain Proust who is regarded as one of South Africa’s foremost photographers. The standard his work in this book is exquisite and quite breathtaking. He was also responsible for the photography in the previous titles in the Hidden series which dealt with the architectural history of Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Pretoria.

The migration of people from country districts to urban areas is a common phenomenon around the world.

In the Karoo, however, there has been a movement of people returning to settle in the area. In many instances, these are the artistic and creative people who appreciate the value of the historic buildings available in the Karoo. As a result, many have been restored to serve as private residences or as venues to serve the growing Karoo tourist industry.

This offers hope that the national treasure that is the architectural heritage of the Karoo could survive the ravages of time and give great pleasure to future generations.

Hidden Karoo serves as an important record of what there is, and what there could be.

Hidden Karoo is published by Struik Lifestyle. The ISBN is 1432310042 and the recommended price is R490. – Keith Millar


“Limerence” is a wonderfully easy book to read. Vincent Pienaar’s excellent turns of phrase leave one laughing out loud, along with his unexpected plot twists (Review by Barry Meehan)



“Limerence, yes. It’s like a drug; like LSD. But you can’t buy it. Or go to jail for taking it.

If you’ve got it, enjoy it. Just don’t make any long-term decisions.

If you want to know what it is, look it up.”

(From the novel’s back cover)


I must admit, I had never heard the word before, so I followed the author’s advice, and looked it up to discover that it is a genuine word, with a rather unique meaning. So please, go ahead – Wikipedia awaits your query patiently.

Set in and around Johannesburg, Vincent Pienaar’s novel introduces us to Scout, the perennial eccentric in the white Panama hat, whose quest for love forms the central theme of this highly entertaining novel. Can he handle love when he finds it, though? Not really, is the unfortunate answer.

First on the list of his “true loves” is Clarissa (Clarry), who we meet 40 years after her involvement with Scout. She is a successful and wealthy novelist, who is certainly not overjoyed when Scout pitches up on her doorstep with a somewhat bizarre proposition – he presents her with his last will and testament, citing her as sole beneficiary. According to him, the estate will be worth over five hundred thousand Rand (which she finds debatable). What’s the catch? He needs money right now for a “project” and could she please lend him four hundred thousand Rand?

Clarissa is more than annoyed with herself for allowing Scout to have an effect on her after all the intervening years. As far as she was concerned, her time with Scout was just a memory, carefully suppressed. But 40 years on, he’s still Scout in the white Panama hat – not the same one she bought him when they married, but then Panama hats don’t last terribly long.

Some months later, Clarissa is invited to a lawyer’s office, and presumes that Scout has passed on, and that the meeting is to do with his will. She is supposed to be the sole beneficiary, but she soon discovers that she is going to have to take her place in a queue – there are four other women at the meeting, all with their own copies of the will, and their own stories of their time with Scout.

Limerence is a wonderfully easy book to read. Vincent Pienaar’s excellent turns of phrase leave one laughing out loud, along with his unexpected plot twists. His former lovers are as large as life allows them to be, giving their differing circumstances, and they form a somewhat unholy alliance as they attempt to establish what became of the 2.1 million Rand they collectively lent him. There is, of course, another question to be answered first – is Scout actually dead?

Limerence is sincerely recommended as a truly entertaining novel. Buy a few copies and hand them out as Christmas presents. You might not be able to spread limerence with this gesture, but you certainly will spread joy and a good chuckle.

Limerence is published by Penguin Random House. ISBN:  978-1-48590-463-2 – Barry Meehan

Saturday, October 16, 2021


(Stephane Pechoux & Ralitsa Pechoux. Pic by Val Adamson)

The Baroque 2000 orchestra, under the leadership of Concertmaster Ralitza Macheva, is certainly a Durban treasure. They always play with ebullience, skill and panache. (Review by Keith Millar)

The Baroque 2000 concert which was performed last Sunday (October 10, 2021) was their first since May and only their second this year. And what a delight it was get back to the picturesque Mariannhill Monastery Church and hear some beautiful music performed by real live musicians.

The programme offered a varied choice and featured Spanish dance music, fencing, comedy, excellent Vivaldi cello music and plenty of percussion.

It was a joyful selection and was much enjoyed by the audience and, from appearances, by the ensemble as well.

The Baroque 2000 orchestra, under the leadership of Concertmaster Ralitza Macheva, is certainly a Durban treasure. They always play with ebullience, skill and panache. Last Sunday’s concert was no different and was a strong reminder of how much we have missed since the onset of the Covid pandemic.

The highlight of the concert for me was Antonio Vivaldi’s exquisite Concert for Cello in D Minor. One of 27 concertos he wrote for solo cello (he wrote an staggering 500 concertos altogether during in his lifetime). The cello was relatively new in Vivaldi’s time, but he had a deep understanding of the tonal nuances of the instrument, and this is reflected by the range of emotions in his compositions.

The soloist for this piece was KZNPO and Baroque 2000 stalwart Ralitsa Perechoux. She delivered a gracious and sensitive rendition of this wonderful music.

Also in the category of sublime music was Jean Philippe Rameau’s Dance pour les Sauvages from his opera Les Indes Galantes (The Amorous Indies). The four acts of the opera have distinct and separate plots but are all based on the theme of love in exotic places. The Sauvages (Savages) referred to are American Indians.

The Austrian composer Johann Heinrich Schmeltzer’s Die Frechtschule (The Fencing School).was also performed. Apparently fencing and playing the violin use the same hand movements and muscles and in the 1700 both pursuits were very popular among young men. It is a lively work with the movement depicting the fight being particularly dramatic.

Also included in the programme was Luigi Boccherini’s Fandango from his First Quintet in D Major. A lively crowd pleaser with plenty of castanets and Spanish rhythms.

Heinrich Biber’s Battalia a 9 is a rather humorous piece. It is believed that the work is Biber’s ironic observation of the devastation of the Thirty Year War.

The final work heard was Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto Grosso Op6 No4.

The next concert will take place on Sunday November 7, 2021, at 11h30. It will include the Ensemble Caprice from Canada along with the Baroque 2000 orchestra. The title of the concert is Baroque-Salsa.

For more information contact Michel Schneuwly at or on 082 303 5241 – Keith Millar


Friday, October 15, 2021


Rhumbelow Theatre in Durban is currently hosting Rhumbelow Classics Cinema, a weekly series of top quality films featuring world renowned artists.

This coming week will feature Three Tenors: Voices for Eternity, a cinematic event 30 years in the making. There will be showings on October 18, 19 and 20 at 18h30.

It’s been 30 years since Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras and Plácido Domingo made their historic debut as The Three Tenors at the ancient baths of Caracalla on the eve of the 1990 Football World Cup Final. A global audience of 1.6 billion people watched this groundbreaking concert - and it catapulted classical music into a completely new dimension, becoming the best-selling classical album of all time.

Three Tenors: Voices for Eternity celebrates the emotional highlights of that first concert and the sequel in Los Angeles. With brand new interviews and never-before-seen backstage footage, this documentary offers a fascinating insight into the rivalries and friendships of the legendary opera stars from 1990 through to Pavarotti's passing in 2007.

Fans can relive the moment history was made by The Three Tenors in Rome 1990, and remember the night when the ‘Beautiful Game’ crossed a cultural divide and changed classical music forever.

Running time is one hour, 30 minutes. (Venue opens 60 minutes before show for snacks/drinks)

Tickets R100. Bring food picnic baskets or buy at the venue. A full bar is available (no alcohol may be brought on to the premises).

All seating will be at separate tables and the venue will obviously be seating co-habiting couples and/or family members together.

Limited secure parking available.

All tickets must be pre-booked. No walk-ins allowed. Booking is essential on email: or through Computicket.

For more information contact Roland Stansell on 082 499 8636 or visit

Strict Covid protocols will be observed. Rhumbelow Theatre is situated at 42 Cunningham Road off Bartle Road in Umbilo, Durban.


Krone X Whatiftheworld gallery in Tulbagh presents 40 under 40 a hotbed of discourse and delight, featuring 40 progressive artists under the age of 40.

Participating artists hail from across the African continent. Of the 40 artists selected, five hail from South Africa’s sub-tropical province and the strong KwaZulu-Natal contingent is of particular interest.

The vibrant work on show denotes the bright multiculturalism of KZN with its melange of surfer culture, Hindu and Zulu influences. This makes its presence felt in bold palates and assured brush strokes as evident in the work of Kylie Wentzel, Sthenjwa Luthuli, Dada Khanyisa, Mia Chaplin and Callan Grecia.

Rickshaw Cowboy, a large acrylic painting on canvas by 28-year-old Wentzel, is inspired by Durban’s unique iconography and inhabitants. Like the rest of Wentzel’s work - where you might expect to see fish sold out of booze bottles, taxis blasting gqom, public showers filled with all manner of beaching bodies - this piece typifies the idiosyncrasy and verve of eThekwini.

Based in Bothas Hill, 30-year-old Luthuli is a respected international artist whose work is held in major public and private collections. He primarily produces wooden reliefs and woodcut prints that are notable for their meticulously hand-carved patterns, resulting in imagery which reverberates with an almost supernatural energy.

Khanyisa is also a 30-year-old artist, this time from UMzimkhulu, whose work has been exhibited anywhere from the USA’s Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC to the Sfeir-Semler in Hamburg, Germany. Through painting, drawing and sculpture, Khanyisa pictures people engaged in various conversations, flirtations, tensions and pretensions as played out in clubs, bars, cafes and homes.

Chaplin has held solo exhibitions in South Africa and The Netherlands and has completed residencies at the Cite Internationale Des Artes in Paris, and Nirox Foundation in Johannesburg. Lost Woman, her oil on mixed-media sculpture, is part of a continuum; Chaplin’s practice is both guided and plagued by constructed femininity. She creates a narrative of womanhood and femininity that is complex – it is all at once ugly, violent, comforting and containing.

Durban-born Callan Grecia has exhibited as part of Paris Fashion Week and his work is held in the public collection of the Durban Art Gallery. His experimental, almost playful, approach to painting combines figures, still lives and geometric abstractions. By pairing these modernist techniques with pop culture and classical canonical references, Grecia fashions scenes that seem mythological yet familiar, creating a hybrid world where the history of art collides with a futuristic fantasy. His daring and exciting acrylic painting on paper Blue Lagoon Box Shape Romance speaks of symbolism, sex and souped-up cars at the legendary Durban riverside park-picnic-and-party spot on the Umgeni, known as the Blue Lagoon.

The exhibition runs until February 28, 2022, at the historic Twee Jonge Gezellen Estate, the home of Krone Cap Classique, in Tulbagh in the Cape.

Entrance to the exhibition itself is free. Viewing hours: Monday to Saturday, from 10h00 to 16h00

There will be guided public walkabouts on November 6 and December 4, 2021, and on January 15 and February 5, 2022. Pre-booking for the walkabouts is advised. Book via email:

For more information visit and



(Hannah Paine)

New Art Gallery opens in 1000 Hills.

1000 Hills artist, Hannah Paine, opened a new intimate gallery on the picturesque Macnut Farm and Wedding Venue this week – a life-long dream of hers which also offers local artists a new space in-which to exhibit their works. 

The gallery complements the other attractions on the Macnut Farm – gorgeous intimate chapels; a spacious wedding venue; accommodation options and a plant nursery.

The gallery opened with an exhibition of Hannah’s recent oil paintings – large scale florals in muted velvet tones, evocative portraits of women, nudes, cupids, animals and icons. She is a multi-faceted artist, who has explored many genres in art, including; ceramics, music, writing, fine arts, floral design, interior decor and stained glass design.

Hannah’s Gallery, a member of 1000 Hills Community Tourism Organisation, is found at 13 Lello Road, Assagay. There will be informal walkabouts every Sundays to which the public is invited, from 09h00 until 16h00.

For more information visit



It’s an interesting read, if you are into the ancient Greek and Trojan myths and legends, and delivers great insights into the times, but (in my humble opinion) peters out somewhat to a rather tame ending. (Review by Barry Meehan)

Beginning her literary career when she was in her forties, Pat Barker has to date published 16 novels, including the acclaimed Regeneration trilogy; been awarded a CBE for her services to literature, and has won Britain’s highest literary honour, the Booker Prize.

The Women of Troy apparently follows on from her bestselling The Silence of the Girls, which tells the story of one of the great classical myths – the taking and sacking of the city of Troy by the Greeks. The novel begins with Pyrrhus, the son of the mighty Achilles, inside the wooden horse along with the best Greek warriors, unsure if the Trojans will believe the horse is a token of the Greeks’ appreciation of the Trojans’ fighting skills. The Greek Army has disappeared from their encampment, and all that is needed is for the Trojans to pull the horse inside the city walls, which they do.

All hell breaks loose and Pyrrhus fights his way through a secret tunnel to the apartment of Priam, King of Troy. Trying hard to emulate the way his father would have dispatched Priam, Pyrrhus makes a real mess of the job, but eventually kills the old man. Unfortunately for him, the sloppy killing is witnessed by a few slaves/servants in the apartment, and this sets the basis for The Women Of Troy, as they become slaves to the Greeks, but are left with a burning desire to give their King the burial he deserves.

Much as the Greeks would like to return home after sacking Troy and stealing its treasures, they are foiled by firstly a lack of wind, which leaves their ships becalmed, then a gale force wind blowing exactly the wrong way for the homeward journey.

We meet several of the “Women of Troy” in this novel – Helen, whose incredible beauty caused the war in the first place; Cassandra the prophet, believed by nobody unless she can get a man to deliver her prophecies on her behalf; slave girl Amina, the most determined of the bunch, whose fanatical desire to see Priam’s funeral carried out according to tradition causes huge problems; and Hecuba, whose howling is enough to wake the dead.

Keeping the women sane and creating some sense of togetherness is Briseis, who is pregnant by the legendary Achilles, who died fighting in the war.

The Women of Troy is a novel of valour and violence, of will battling will, of women doing everything in their power to keep their men in check, of moments that could change the course of history. It’s an interesting read, if you are into the ancient Greek and Trojan myths and legends, and delivers great insights into the times, but (in my humble opinion) peters out somewhat to a rather tame ending.

The Women of Troy is published by Penguin. ISBN: 978-0-241-42724-8 – Barry Meehan


Thursday, October 14, 2021


Films are, of course, the heart of any film festival. But an important allied component are the special events which allow enriched engagement with the films, the topics raised in the films, and connection to the filmmakers themselves. Alongside the screening of 18 new films showing online and without cost at the 8th European Film Festival are a series of insightful Live Zoom panel discussions, Filmmaker Q&As, Community Events and Schools Programmes.



Friday, October 15: 18h00 to 19h00

Breaking glass ceilings for women in film – the challenges, the accomplishments, the journey. How far have we come, how far still to go…

Discussants: Agnieszka Holland (Charlatan), Antoinette Beumer (My Father is an Airplane), Zanele Mthembu (Sisters Working In Film and Television – SWIFT)

Moderator: Bongiwe Selane (Happiness is a Four-Letter Word)


Monday, October 18: 18h00 to 19h00

Sense and sensitivity in education – a conversation with Mr Bachmann

A new approach to teaching and inspiring our youth?

A discussion between Dieter Bachmann (Mr Bachmann and His Class), Prof Mary Metcalfe (former MEC for Education, current Senior Research Associate, University of Johannesburg), and Andisiwe Hlungwane (Teachers CAN).

Moderator: Dr Rene Smith (Media and Culture Studies Academic, Durban University of Technology)


October 19: 18h00 to 19h00

The Bright Side: surviving the journey

Ruth Meehan (The Bright Side) and Anthea Lewis (Global Hero of Hope/ CANSA coordinator) discuss personal journeys and survival strategies.

Moderator: Rosie Motene (Waka Talent Agency)


October 20: 18h00 to 19h00

A Film about Life, Death and Money

Directors of Save Sandra - Jan Verheyen and Lien Willaert - in discussion with health and education activist Mark Heywood (editor, Daily Maverick Citizen) about a family’s struggles against the pharmaceutical industry to gain access to medicine for their daughter.


October 21: 17h00 to 18h00

Humour, Healing and Messaging – thinking while smiling

South African comedian Riaad Moosa leads the discussion featuring Michela Andreozzi (Parents versus Influencers), Uje Brandelius (Run Uje Run), Michael Kreihsl (Risks and Side Effects) as they unpack the use of humour as a form of messaging, and humour as healing.


Go to Special Events page on and simply click on the session at the appointed time.


The European Film Festival 2021 is a partnership project of the Delegation of the European Union to South Africa and 17 European embassies and cultural agencies in South Africa: the Embassies of Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the British Council, Camoes Institute of Portugal, Diplomatic Representation of Flanders, French Institute in South Africa, Goethe-Institut, and Italian Cultural Institut. The festival is organised in cooperation with Cineuropa and coordinated by Creative WorkZone.


The world of books and design coming together to re-imagine story telling in Africa.

The first Africa Book and Design Festival (ABDF) is set to launch on November 11 to 13, 2021, in South Africa. The festival celebrates African excellence in Literature & Design and encourages intra-African cultural exchange by connecting African authors and book designers under one roof whilst connecting their works to Africa’s growing consumer market.

The goal of the festival is to demonstrate the value of reading and design thinking to Africa’s younger generations with one of the key messages being that “If you don’t read, make sure your children do” because books open the mind in ways that no other medium can.

Due to COVID-19 regulations, the launch will be a hybrid event of physical (limited capacity) and virtual experiences. Content will be unpacked in small settings to allow attendees to stream discussions and presentations from various authors on the ABDF website, YouTube and other social platforms, with a virtual exhibition experience that will allow book sellers to showcase and sell African works that are a must-have in your personal library.

The festival is supported by South Africa’s Department of Sports, Arts & Culture: Literacy Department with the intention to expanding the literary conversation to Africa’s young audience.

The announcement comes as the Department makes evident its commitment to re-igniting the arts and cultural sector which took a hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lisa Combrink, Head: Literacy, Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, says: “Covid-19 has forced the world to think local and for the most part, local means one’s country. But for Africans, it is important that we continue to engage at a continental and global level. Not only to enable our authors to continue to access a larger consumer base but for all of us to connect to our shared African history, our shared culture and our shared goal – to continue to create new narratives for and about our people.”

Nonhlanhla Matshazi, Festival Director for Africa Book & Design Festival, adds: “Africa is abundant in creative talent and at the base of creativity is literature and design. Not only do books tell our authentic African stories, they are the documentation of our told and untold history, - the guides that inspire the future. Design is at the root of all creativity – the very first story tellers were designers, telling our stories through images. At Africa Book & Design Festival, we believe books and design are key resources to documenting and informing African culture. Connecting Africans to and through these resources, empowers us all with the tools to build the Africa we want.”

Trace Africa are the exclusive broadcast partner for the festival speaking to the organisers objective to expose more young people to African literature.

“Trace aims to empower people through storytelling, entertainment and creative content campaigns. This is why it’s so important for TRACE to be a part of the first African Book and Design Festival. We recognise the need to celebrate the excellence of these authors and believe that it is our duty to encourage the intra-African cultural exchange to help build Africa’s growing youth market,” shared Trace’s Managing Director – Southern Africa & Regional Director Anglophone Africa, Valentine Gaudin-Muteba

This is but one of many events and initiatives that the department will be unveiling over the next few weeks.

For more information, visit


Tuesday, October 12, 2021


The Camp Chair Soulful Jazz: will host Mthobisi Mthalane at 15h00 on October 17, 2021, at the Greenleaf Estate in Pietermaritzburg.

Mthalane was born in Impendle outside Pietermaritzburg. He has worked with high profile artists including Dorothy Masuku, Camagwini, Ntando, Zulu Boy, Rebecca Malope, Hlengiwe Mhlaba, Benjamin Dube, JubJub and Jazel brothers, Madala Kunene and Maisha.

He is a pianist in Vusi Mkhize’s band and has worked as a music director of different projects and theatre productions.

Tickets R200. Ticket Enquiries: WhatsApp Nduh Gabs on 072 108 9810. Bring yourself, a mask, camp chair and a friend, they say!

Greenleaf Estate is on the R56 at Bisley, corner of White Road and Richmond Foxhill.


(Above: Joey Rasdien, Schalk Bezuidenhout & Riaad Moosa)

Award-winning South African comedy, Material, returns with a sequel in 2021, once again starring popular comedian, Riaad Moosa

Remember the team that brought us the box office sensation Material, the hilarious, heart-warming film about a dutiful young Muslim man who moonlights as a stand-up comedian in Joburg nightclubs? Well, they’re back.

In New Material, much-loved character, Cassim Kaif, played by Riaad Moosa, continues to ply his trade as one of South Africa’s few Muslim comedians while balancing the demands of a marriage, a young child, and living in a house with his ageing parents. His father Ebrahim (Vincent Ebrahim) has reluctantly accepted his son’s chosen career for now, but it is still a simmering issue.

While Cassim’s career is going reasonably well, he performs mostly to Johannesburg Muslim audiences and yearns to expand his audience nationally and further hone his craft. Yusuf (Joey Rasdien), his best friend and agent, plans a national tour, but is totally out of his depth. From the outset, the tour is beset with problems from an over-eager sponsor (played by Rajesh Gopie) who expects too much from the deal to Cassim having to make tough decisions when international opportunities present themselves. This is exactly what Cassim wanted. Or is it?

The sequel to the smash hit film also stars Zakeeya Patel, Denise Newman, Kurt Schoonraad and media personality, Shashi Naidoo.

“Riaad Moosa, Schalk Bezuidenhout and Joey Rasdien are a formidable comedy team, the very best in homegrown talent,” says Helen Kuun, MD of Indigenous Film Distribution. “Between them, they have no shortage of material and they also have an incredibly diverse and enthusiastic loyal following, so we are really excited about the film.”

New Material is directed by Craig Freimond, who won the Golden Horn Award for Best Achievement in Directing in a Feature Film for Material in 2013. A writer and director for film, television and theatre, Freimond is also known for Gums and Noses (2014), Jozi (2010), Material (2012) and Beyond the River (2017), the award-winning film inspired by the true story of Siseko Ntondini and Piers Cruickshanks who won gold in the 2014 Dusi Marathon.

The film is produced by Robbie Thorpe, who has produced over two hundred hours of television and ten feature films including Material, Man on Ground (2011, official selection Berlin), Beyond the River and Vaya (2016, official selection Toronto and Berlin films festivals).

It’s edited by Megan Gill, a South African-based editor and in a career spanning 20 years, has worked on a wealth of television and film productions. Most recently, Gill edited the critically-acclaimed Keira Knightley film Official Secrets (2019), and Eye in the Sky starring Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman. She also edited Tsotsi, Rendition, Otelo Burning, X-Men Origins: Wolverine among many more.

Moosa won the SAFTA (South African Film and Television Award) for Best Actor for his role in Material, which also received SAFTA's for Best Film, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor in 2013.

New Material is produced by Ochre Moving Pictures and Blu Blood Africa, and is distributed by Indigenous Film Distribution[SJ1] .


Monday, October 11, 2021


“The Dictionary of Lost Words” will be included in my all-time favourite reads. Higher praise than that I cannot give this gem of a book. (Review by Fiona de Goede)

The author of The Dictionary of Lost Words, Pip Williams, was born in London but currently resides in Australia with her partner and two sons. Whilst doing research into the origin of the Oxford English Dictionary, she discovered that the word “bondmaid” did not make it into the first edition. Her interest was piqued and this marvellous book is the result. 

This is her debut novel and named the 2020 bestselling fiction in Australia – and it is no wonder to see why!

Esme and her Da, as she refers to her father, a lexicographer, live in Oxford where he works in the Scriptorium, with Dr Murray, the head compiler of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

Esme sits under the table and hears the men discuss words, their meaning and their origin.

From an early age, this love of words is in her blood and she has a desire to learn as much as possible and understand the different meanings the same word apparently can have for different people. Specifically, how words can mean one thing for men and another for women.

This leads to her collecting all the discarded words and storing them in her treasure box and also prompts her to speak to a variety of people to get their take on words. Their interpretations don’t always match what is included in the OED and her fascination continues to grow.

There are wonderful characters that the reader meets along the way. Lizzie, the maid in the Murray household -she also takes care of Essymay, as she fondly refers to her. Mabel, the old hag in the Covered Market is a valuable source of words that Esme would not ordinarily be exposed to. Tilda, an actress and staunch supporter of the women’s suffrage movement. Esme’s aunt, Edith, a historical researcher and contributor to the OED, whom Esme calls Ditte – as a young child she is unable to pronounce her name correctly and the childhood pet name sticks.

The story spans the years between 1887 and 1928 – the length of time it took to compile the OED. This fact alone should demonstrate the Herculean task these academics undertook, keeping in mind that every word was painstakingly researched, discussed, mulled over and only then the decision was made whether or not it would be included in the OED.

The events that are of historical importance during the compilation years of the OED include the women’s suffrage movement in England as well as World War 1. It is beautifully interwoven into the story of Esme’s life and impacts on the woman she becomes.

What the author manages to do superbly is to take a topic that many would consider dry and boring and make it real, exciting and extremely interesting.

It is fascinating to read about the process of compiling a dictionary – the work that went on in the Scriptorium, the Bodleian Library, at the Oxford University Press, the Old Ashmolean.

Esme and the characters in the book brought these historical places to life and made you feel part of the journey. This is a book that from the very first paragraph draws the reader in and, if like me, you have a love of reading and the meaning of words, this is a must read.

The Dictionary of Lost Words will be included in my all-time favourite reads. Higher praise than that I cannot give this gem of a book. 

The book is published by Penguin Random House ISBN 978-1-784-74387-1 – Fiona de Goede