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Publisher's Summary

The compiling of the Oxford English Dictionary was a monumental task. It took 50 years, even with the help of numerous contributors. Among the most prolific was William Chester Minor, who sent editor James Murray thousands of extracts.

On many occasions, Murray invited this mysterious correspondent to Oxford, but the invitation was always declined. Finally stirred by curiosity, Murray himself went to visit Minor. What he found was shocking: Minor lived in Broadmoor asylum. He was a millionaire, an expert on the English language, and a qualified surgeon, but he was imprisoned as a lunatic for murder.

©1998 Simon Winchester (P)2005 W. F. Howes Ltd

What listeners say about The Surgeon of Crowthorne

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Fascinating! I

I really enjoyed this narration by the author. Having recently read the fictional novel 'The Dictionary of Lost Words' with its intriguing descriptions by the young female protagonist, collecting the slips of lost words and giving voice to the usually silenced females while referring to the painstaking collection and dedication of the team in the Scrippy, as she affectionately referred to the Scriptorium. Simon Winchester acknowledges, the gender bias of the OED and the diligence of those with a love for words. I appreciate the research and references where possible to primary sources as well as the explanations of the process and effort required. This account has the drama and emotions of any great fiction, relaying a tale of an extraordinary feat which gave a deeply troubled man a reason to live. I thorough recommend.

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I wanted to like this book so much more than I did

The underlying stories of WC Minor and James Murray are extremely interesting, in their parallels and divergences, and the story of how an inmate at a Victorian insane asylum came to be one of the most effective contributors to the OED is extremely interesting and could easily take up 18 chapters by itself. However, I feel that this book pads around the story with so much fluff that we end of losing this main narrative amongst all the author's side trails and supposings. One example is early in the text when the author goes on a tangent about the different definitions of the word protagonist, the development and history of its usage etc.
I'm not begrudging the author diverging into histories of the development of different English dictionaries or different words and their usages, but some of them were extensive beyond their actual relation to the main focus on the OED that it became distracting and boring.

As to the performance itself, Winchester's voice is pleasant and he reads the text very well, but there are odd bursts of classical music throughout - not just between chapters (which are not announced) but randomly within chapters.
The last three chapters are really not related to the main narrative at all - they are acknowledgements and an interview.

Overall, it's an interesting story, told with too many diversions.

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Wonderful story

Brilliantly told story. Sad but uplifting too. If you are interested in dictionaries, language, mental illness or the late 19th century, you will not be disappointed.

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Surprising and engaging!

Well worth a read. I don't think I'll ever approach the Dictionary the same way again!

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  • Sally Margetts
  • 24-04-2018

good but

I felt a bit ripped off... as I'd already read this book when it was called 'The professor and the mad mad' . I guess it was my fault for not reading the description 🤔

4 people found this helpful

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  • J. D. Barnell
  • 12-01-2020

oooh arrr! It's Buffoon not Baffoon you BUFFOON!

The author's grasp of english accents does not alas match that of his subjects...let alone an attempt at Spanish that is pure Les Dawson in a hair net & curlers, half mouthing "Me Waterworks" - screwed up face and all. Once again a moving, thoughtful and excellent story suffers his non mastery of regional or any accents, he slips in and out of some vague west country U.S. east coast Scottish lilt..otherwise it's excellent....for a buffoon.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-04-2018

Brilliant

Really well researched, written and read by the author. Highly recommend. Wish he read more books, he has one of the most professional voices I have heard on audio books

1 person found this helpful

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