The Great Passage will be Gembu Books hero product – a new dictionary produced in the traditional way.
It is the passion of Kohei Araki, he was inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, and became obsessed by the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years working at Gembu Books, it’s time for him to retire and find his replacement. Not an easy feat as creating a dictionary is as much an art as it is a very precise science.
Luckily he discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime—a young, disheveled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics—whom he swipes from his company’s sales department.
Led by his new mentor and joined by an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. But this Great Passage takes many years to complete, on the way Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work.
I loved this book. It was a heartwarming look at ordinary lives as well as a love letter to words and how they shape our society. It examines how easy friendship becomes when we appreciate each others foibles and follies rather than expecting everyone to be the same as us and being irritated when they fail. But throughout that there are little comments on society and the impact of our words. It was particularly heartening to see them discuss the definition for love as being between a man and a woman and decide it didn’t need to be gendered that way anymore.
I’ve recently read a lot of darker books and a read this straight after reading about the Black Lives Matter movement, it was just the antidote I needed to rejuvenate my spirits and remind me there is good in the world.
NB I received a copy of this free of charge from NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.