Review – The Surgeon of Crowthorne

Posted 12 October, 2016 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon WinchesterThe Surgeon of Crowthorne, Simon Winchester

It sounds pretty sensational: a known murderer worked on the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary — a murder who was known to be insane and who was kept at Broadmoor for the entire time he was assisting. The book isn’t quite so sensational in outlook; it does describe the murder, but it also treats the man who did it — Dr Minor — with sympathy and respect. It’s surprisingly far-ranging, touching on Minor’s involvement in the American Civil War as well as the work of Dr Murray on the Oxford English Dictionary, and the whole context of both endeavours.

In the end, in fact, it seems to deal so sympathetically with Dr Minor — who without a doubt was suffering from some serious delusions for most of his life — that I didn’t find it sensational at all. It seemed to be as much about the dictionary and about the friendship between Dr Minor and Dr Murray as about the sensationalism of it, which I quite liked. Ultimately, it’s rather ambivalent about the actual subject: is it Minor, or is it the dictionary? But nonetheless, I found it pretty interesting.

Rating: 3/5

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