Book Review: The Dictionary of Animal Languages by Heidi Sopinka

The Dictionary of Animal Languages
by Heidi Sopinka

Publication date: April 12th 2018
Publisher: Scribe UK
Pages: 320


We grant men a right to solitude. Why can’t we do the same for women?

Born into a wealthy family in northern England and sent to boarding school to be educated by nuns, Ivory Frame rebels. She escapes to inter-war Paris, where she finds herself through art, and falls in with the most brilliantly bohemian set: the surrealists.

Torn between an intense love affair with a married Russian painter and her soaring ambition to create, Ivory’s life is violently interrupted by the Second World War. She flees from Europe, leaving behind her friends, her art, and her love.

Now over ninety, Ivory labours defiantly in the frozen north on her last, greatest work — a vast account of animal languages — alone except for her sharp research assistant, Skeet.

And then unexpected news from the past arrives: this magnificently fervent, complex woman is told that she has a grandchild, despite never having had a child of her own …

Source: Goodreads


I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway and was pretty excited to start, especially as I really liked the front cover.

Sadly “The Dictionary of Animal Languages” has become the first book added to my ‘did not finish‘ pile. Just over 150 pages in I was so confused. I had no idea what was going on and couldn’t work out who was who so I had absolutely no motivation to continue.

While at times beautiful and poetic, I found the majority of the writing to be completely incoherent. Through different times, voices and locations I felt lost. This also wasn’t helped my the lack of speech marks which I really don’t like.

I did like one part; a shared hatred for taxidermy:

“Taxidermy is a revolting act, I tell him. I’ve never understood why exactly anyone would choose to be in a room with decapitated animals.”

Overall rating: I gave up on this book having found myself completely lost and I don’t feel that I’ve missed out in doing so. It’s 1 star for “The Dictionary of Animal Languages”