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The Liar’s Dictionary Reader’s Guide

By Eley Williams

The Liar's Dictionary by Eley Williams


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Have you ever browsed through a dictionary the way that’s described in the preface? If so, what unique words did you find?

2. At the beginning of the novel, Winceworth muses that “there should really be a specific word associated with the side effects of drinking an excess of alcohol.” Is there a feeling or sensation you feel there should be a specific word for?

3. When David tells her about mountweazels, or made up words, Mallory points out that “all words are made up.” How do you think made up words become “real words”? Can you think of any recent examples?

4. Why do you think Mallory has stayed at Swansby’s for so many years?

5. The Liar’s Dictionary has two protagonists, one from the past (Winceworth) and one from the present (Mallory). What do you make of the relationship between these two characters? What traits do they share?

6. The book contains many lesser-known definitions for familiar words. Was there one definition that particularly surprised you?

7. What do you think is the strongest factor in Winceworth’s decision to include “mountweazels” in the dictionary?

8. What was your favorite mountweazel?

9. Mallory reflects on some more nontraditional “dictionaries” she owns, such as The Language of Flowers. Do you think of books like this as “dictionaries”? Why or why not? What do you think are the most important characteristics of a dictionary?

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