A friend from UNC (Go Heels! – it’s a gut reaction ), Hi Lizzie!, recommended The Madman’s Daughter as the author is a family friend (or something along those lines) and I’m glad she recommended it! It was a fast paced and engaging read and although it wasn’t perfect, it was an amazing debut novel and I can’t wait to see where her writing takes her in the future.
It has been a very long time, over 10 years if not closer to 15, since I went through my H.G. Wells obsession and read everything he wrote and from what I remember this mirrors The Island of Doctor Moreau pretty closely. I think at some point in the next few years I will go back and read Wells work again as I really enjoyed The Time Machine and The Invisible Man.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the author’s story telling ability and her great descriptions. At one point when I was getting reading my final chapter for the night before bed I had chills all over my body because of what happened and the cliff hanger of that chapter (almost the exact half-way point). Honestly, I was shocked I was able to put the book down and go to bed.
This book is definitely a reader’s book, or maybe a writer’s book? I’m never really sure what the difference is, but either way it’s a tome that really pushes you to focus on what you’re reading as there are quite a few heavy philosophical arguments and references within the novel, and it pushes you to question what is and isn’t real with the protagonist acknowledging that he’s had previous stints in a mental institution and the varying ‘ghosts’ to which the title refers.
I bought this book in 2011 at the Boston Book Festival and it’s just sat on my shelf since. I’m glad I read it, but at the same time I’m not sure why I bought it at the time as I’m terrified of ghost stories, but you’ll have to read on to find out how this one affected me. Since it’s been on my shelf for almost two years it counts for my Mount TBR ‘extra’ challenge. It took nearly two weeks to read and that’s from the denseness of the book. seriously, scroll down and read the first line—it’s a PARAGRAPH—or any of the quotes for that matter!
The complete title of this work is The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary and it fully lives up to this title. It is the history of Professor James Murray (the Professor) and Dr. W.C. Minor (the Madman) and their serendipitously linked lives through one of the greatest feats of the English-speaking world.
It’s a fascinating combination of historical novel about the Oxford English Dictionary and Biography of its longest editors (Murray) and greatest contributors (Minor). If there’s one major critique I have is that it often felt like the author purposefully used a ridiculous synonyms when a simple word would suffice. However, with his obsession for lexicography and the OED in particular, it’s not too surprising.
The story itself is fascinating, it traces Murray’s and Minor’s lives from birth to death and points out both the similarities and differences, and subtly mixes in the history of the OED and how each became involved, from Minor’s murder of a complete stranger to Murray’s insatiable curiosity as a child. What I truly appreciate about the historical research done is Winchester’s acknowledgement that some of the perceived story is not what actually happened. He makes a fair effort to point this out and to provide ample evidence to show this, specifically around the romanticized first meeting of Minor and Murray.