This is a transcription of ‘Planet Word and Two New Books — 19 January 2024’
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Melissa: Coming up, a murdery trip to a private Greek island.
David: A story of revenge from the Victorian era.
Melissa: Plus, our distraction of the week. I’m Mel.
David: I’m Dave. This is the library of lost time.
Melissa: This week, I’m listening to the audiobook of The Fury by Alex Michaelides. It’s a murder mystery set on a private Greek island.
Melissa: Lana Farrar is one of the world’s most famous actresses. She’s beautiful, talented, and kind. Everyone who knows her is just a little bit in love with her. It’s Easter weekend, and the cold and rain of London is just too much. So Lana invites her actress friend Kate and her old pal Elliot to join her family in Greece. They’ll swim, they’ll eat, they’ll be rejuvenated.
Melissa: However, they haven’t been on the island long before harsh words are spoken. And their sunny days are bedeviled by a wind so fierce, it’s practically another character in the story. Then somebody ends up dead.
Melissa: You’re probably getting whiffs of Agatha Christie right about now, but two things are setting it apart for me: First, the characters are interesting and messy — they’re more than simply ‘the actress,’ the ‘rich guy,’ that kind of thing. They’ve got backstories. Second, what’s really selling me on this book is the NARRATOR — both the one on the page and the actor performing the audiobook.
Melissa: Lana’s friend Elliot is the narrator. In between dishing on everyone else, he confesses his own dark past. There are bits about his childhood and being an outsider that are genuinely moving — but mostly, his tone is delightfully arch and gossipy, whether he’s talking about himself or the others.
Melissa: A lot of that is on the page, but man! the British actor Alex Jennings is really giving it life. He’s been in plays for decades at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theater, and his training is all there. The accent! The nuance! It’s a RIDE to listen to him unspool this story.
Melissa: I’m about halfway through the book, and so far, it’s an excellent escape to Greece. I can smell the salt air and hear the wind howling. And I can’t wait to see what happens next. It’s The Fury by Alex Michaelides.
David: My book is ‘Maude Horton’s Glorious Revenge’ by Lizzie Pook. If that fantastic title isn’t enough to convince you to join me on a speed read, here’s the premise.
David: It starts with a character named Constance. Constance has run away from her life in Victorian England. She’s disguised herself as a boy – and gotten aboard an expedition vessel – bound for the Northwest Passage. But then Constance disappears. While at sea.
David: Two years later! Her sister Maude gets a letter from the British Admiralty. ‘A tragic accident,’ they say. ‘Death by misadventure,’ they say.
David: This does not sit well with Maude. Using only Constance’s diary and a red-hot desire for justice, Maude follows a trail to the expedition’s lead scientist. She learns that he’s now involved with a new venture. He’s got a travel company that escorts spectators across the country to witness popular public hangings, and she decides that she will go on the tour, learn the truth, and avenge her sister’s death!
David: Publisher’s Weekly said, ‘Pook’s masterful pacing and meticulous attention to historical detail make this sing.’ This book just came out this week. It’s ‘Maude Horton’s Glorious Revenge’ by Lizzie Pook.
David: And now our Distraction of the Week. [magical sound effect]
David: I’m a fan of words. And I love to travel. And I appreciate museums a lot. Imagine my excitement when I discovered Planet Word, a modern museum about language in Washington, D.C. It is a celebration of communication, filled with interactive exhibits.
David: Even before stepping inside, you’re greeted by a tree called ‘The Speaking Willow.’ It whispers — in different languages — to visitors as they enter.
David: Inside, there’s a room called The Library. That room features books that animate and speak. So, for instance, you might flip through Alice in Wonderland, hear the text, and then see Alice fall down the rabbit hole as an animation projected on the book. The stories come alive. You get the sensation that every book is trying to tell its story. The Library also has a hidden door leading into a poetry nook, where verses are projected and read by actors.
David: There’s another room where you’re invited to deliver one of the greatest speeches ever. A teleprompter displays iconic speeches for participants to read aloud to an imaginary crowd. Other exhibits take on topics like learning and lyrics. Or the lexicon of sales.
David: I first became aware of the museum because there’s an exhibit that explains dyslexia and what it’s like to have it. The whole facility is inside of a refurbished historic school building. It’s a beautiful old place, about a fifteen-minute walk from the White House.
David: We’ll provide links to videos and the museum’s site. Its website is robust. It has a 3D map you can wander around in, for instance. If you want to explore a place where words dance and stories unfold — literally — you might want to check out Planet Word in Washington, D.C.
Melissa: Visit strongsenseofplace.com/library for more on the books we talked about today and more on the Planet Word Museum.
David: Thanks for joining us on the library of last time. Remember to visit your local library and your independent bookstore to lose some time yourself.
Melissa: Stay curious. We’ll talk to you soon.
Top image courtesy of Planet Word.
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