The Swift family

The Swift family

Beth Lincoln: The Swifts – A Dictionary of Scoundrels (Penguin Random House 2023)

In the Swift family, when a child is born, a name and a definition are chosen from the large family Dictionary, which the child will resemble when grows up. The name Shenanigan means troublemaker, which the little girl really lives up to. Her favorite hobby is mapping their house. The House itself is no ordinary building either. While the Swift family had more power and more money, the house were always nicely painted and tattered. Each generation added more and more parts to it – with quite a few secret passages and peepholes. However, as the family’s influence declined, so did the house’s charm. Even today, it cannot be called ugly, but it can only be beautiful if you tilt your head a little to the side and squint.

There is also a family legend: one of their ancestors, Great-Uncle Vile, hid a huge treasure somewhere in the house. To find it, the family gathers every decade to look for it. This will be Shenanigan’s first Reunion event and her stated intention is to find the treasure. However, her plan is disrupted by several crimes that she and her sisters must investigate.

The book is an ode to the English language. It has such a large vocabulary that even native English speakers can find new words in it. While we encounter imaginative descriptions and humorous storytelling, the writer portrays snobs and seeks answers to questions such as what makes us who we are. Because in the end, dictionaries and encyclopedias do not control the world, they only form its imprint.

Beth Lincoln grew up in the North of England and always loved to write stories. Her favorites are ghosts, snacks and old special words. This is also felt in her first novel. Claire Powell created the illustrations for the story and the sequel will arrive next February.