#91 review: The Broken Teaglass

The Broken Teaglass



370 pages

Published by Delacorte Press  in September 2009


I read a review of this book on Devourer of Books blog, and it sounded really good. I really enjoyed it very much as well.

Take words, a job with words and dictionaries, and a good mystery, well, how could I resist that!

This lexicographer discovers weird quotations, while looking in the company files to illustrate new words. These quotations are numbered. With another employee, he sets to figure out what this is all about, and a good mystery is coming back to light, with some neat surprises around the corner.
I liked the way the author integrated the excerpts of the mystery in the book, with all recapitulated book at the very end.

It was also such a smart book to discover all kinds of new words.

A neat, smart, very enjoyable, and quick read.

Good for you if you need a break.


The dusty files of a venerable book publisher . . . A hidden cache of coded clues . . . A story written by a phantom author . . . An unsolved murder in a gritty urban park—all collide memorably in Emily Arsenault’s magnificent debut, at once a teasing literary puzzle, an ingenious suspense novel, and an exploration of definitions: of words, of who we are, and the stories we choose to define us.

In the maze of cubicles at Samuelson Company, editors toil away in silence, studying the English language, poring over new expressions and newly coined words—all in preparation for the next, new edition of the Samuelson Dictionary. Among them is editorial assistant Billy Webb, just out of college, struggling to stay awake and appear competent. But there are a few distractions. His intriguing coworker, Mona Minot, may or may not be flirting with him. And he’s starting to sense something suspicious going on beneath this company’s academic facade.

Mona has just made a startling discovery in the office files: a trove of puzzling quotations, all taken from the same book, “The Broken Teaglass.” Billy and Mona soon learn that no such book exists. And the quotations from it are far too long, twisting and bizarre for any dictionary. They read like a confessional, coyly hinting at a hidden identity, a secret liaison, a crime. As Billy and Mona ransack the office files, a chilling story begins to emerge: a story about a lonely young woman, a long-unsolved mystery, a moment of shattering violence. And as they piece together its fragments, the puzzle begins to take on bigger personal meaning for both of them, compelling them to redefine their notions of themselves and each other.

Charged with wit and intelligence, set against a sweetly cautious love story, The Broken Teaglass is a book that will delight lovers of words, lovers of mysteries, and fans of smart, funny, brilliantly inventive fiction. [on Emily Arsenault’s website]


“Language…eloquence,” Mona insisted, “is supposed to be one of the things that separates us from grunting primates. If you turn it into something you beat your chest over, something that only serves to make you better than someone else, or make you insensitive to other human beings–then you may as well be a grunting primate.” p.250

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – self-presentation on her site

I haven’t had a terribly interesting life, so I won’t share too many details. But the highlights include:

•    When I was a preschooler and a kindergartner, I had a lazy eye and I was Connecticut’s “Miss Prevent Blindness,” appearing on pamphlets and television urging parents to get their kids’ eyes checked. I wore an eye patch and clutched a blonde doll wearing a similar patch. I imagine it was all rather maudlin, but at the time I wouldn’t have known that word.

•    I wrote my first novel when I was in fifth grade. It was over a hundred pages and took me the whole school year to write. (It was about five girls at a summer camp. I’d never been to a summer camp, but had always wanted to attend one.) When I was all finished, I turned back to the first page, eager to read it all from the beginning. I was horrified at how bad it was.

•    At age thirteen, I got to go to a real sleepaway camp. It was nothing like the book I had written.

•    I studied philosophy in college. So did my husband. We met in a Hegel class, which is awfully romantic.

•    I worked as an editorial assistant at Merriam-Webster from 1998-2002, and got to help write definitions for their dictionaries.

•    My husband and I served in the Peace Corps together, working in rural South Africa. I miss Losasaneng, miss many of the people we met there, and dream about it often.

•    I am now working on my third novel. It is tentatively titled Just Someone I Used to Know, named after and old song Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton used to sing together.



7 thoughts on “#91 review: The Broken Teaglass

  1. Pingback: Six degrees of separation: The French and Love | Words And Peace

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