The Dictionary of Animal Languages by Heidi Sopinka

The Dictionary of Animal Languages

A novel of love, longing, and art set in interwar Paris, The Dictionary of Animal Languages will appeal to readers of All the Light We Cannot See and The Disappeared.Ivory Frame is a renowned artist. Now in her nineties, the famously reclusive painter remains devoted to her work. She has never married, never had a family, never had a child. So when a letter arrives disclosing that she has a granddaughter living in New York, her world is turned up...

Details The Dictionary of Animal Languages

TitleThe Dictionary of Animal Languages
Release DateFeb 20th, 2018
PublisherHamish Hamilton
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction

Reviews The Dictionary of Animal Languages

  • David
    Reading this Tournament of Books finalist, I was frequently reminded of a quote from Chekhov: "In life, one does not...declare one's passion at every fencepost, and one does not pour out profound thoughts in a constant flow. No."I wish Sopinka had considered this. Her first novel is - in the words of her protagonist - "Jejune. Thrumming with purpose. Full of ideas, unfocused but alive." It is definitely loaded with interesting concepts and poetic...
  • Marjorie
    Ivory Frame has always been a rebellious one. She refuses to be subdued by the nuns at the boarding school her wealthy English parents have sent her to. She finds her way to Paris where she meets surrealists. She has a passionate love affair with a married Russian painter and becomes an artist herself. World War II is at its peak in Paris. When tragedy strikes, Ivory leaves Paris and tries to rebuild her life. She has always had an affinity with ...
  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    I listened on audiobook to this one, but I’ve ordered a print copy to read. Will write a review after.
  • Alison Hardtmann
    Ivory Frame is an elderly woman who has been working for decades on The Dictionary of Animal Languages, a compendium of the various noises animals make to communicate, from the clicking of insects to bird songs to the howls of wolves. Ivory has had an eventful life, attending art school in Paris, where she falls in love with another artist until the Second Word War drives them apart. She finds her true calling with the dictionary, and even though...
  • Janet
    I can't believe how much difficulty I had finding a library print copy of this book. It became a personal challenge and I ended up requesting it be purchased. I read a combination of audio and print....I often switch back and forth if I have access to both. Narrator Elizabeth Proud was the perfect voice for a 92yo woman, Ivory Frame. She is a character you won't soon forget.As Ivory approaches the end of her life, she is overwhelmed by the sense ...
  • Jan
    Beautiful writing and an intriguing protagonist—a 92 year old who’s a former artist and current wildlife biologist. The diffuse story-telling as she wanders through her memories left me wanting something more linear.
  • Collin
    At the beginning of this novel, the protagonist, Ivory Frame, is a frail old woman who has just received word that she has a grand-daughter. This baffles Frame, because she has no children. This enigmatic information leads into a wonderful novel. The novel is advertised and framed as a love story but I found it more of a telling of Frame’s life. The narrative moves forward and back in time mid chapter, slowly filling in the tale of Ivory Frame....
  • Penny (Literary Hoarders)
    Oh dear, oh dear. :-( This is NOT what I was expecting to both rate it or get from the reading experience. I had high, high hopes that this one was going to be right up my alley and be a fantastic reading experience. While there were some beautiful and lyrical moments in the writing, this was a rather strange, dreamlike read sometimes, often quite confusing, and overwhelmingly slow and painfully dry. I don't mind slow and quiet reads at all, but ...
  • Katie Long
    Solid three stars. There is nothing really special here, but I enjoyed spending time with these characters. #TOB2019
  • Ruthiella
    I have no regrets about reading A Dictionary of Animal Languages, but unfortunately, I did not enjoy the author’s writing style and I found the story to be overwrought and romanticized. Also, no speech marks. Often this does not bother me and I barely notice it but in this book I found it made a choppy narrative even more difficult to follow. Read for TOB 2019
  • Brooke
    DNF at 58%. I can't find any desire to continue reading this book. The story, while it has moments of beautiful writing, is slow moving and a bit confusing due to the lack of quotation marks around dialogue and the various points in time that it jumps between. I'm also frustrated because the part of the description that hooked me into reading this book has barely been mentioned. It has such a beautiful cover (and an intriguing description), but t...
  • Tommi
    (2.5) My hunch is that this would’ve been much more enjoyable if read physically, so do not be discouraged by my low rating at all if you’re interested in the novel. I wasn’t too keen on the audio narrator and I so wished I had the text with me in order to go back every now and then to keep track of all the levels of the story, so I ended up not always knowing who was talking and when and where. This is the kind of book I’m eager to hear ...
  • Daniel Sevitt
    A delight. I might never have come across this book had it not surfaced in the longlist for the Tournament of Books, but I couldn't be happier. Even as a first novel it arrives fully formed, gorgeously constructed and preternaturally poised. I have read books before which try to write about painting or music. Ivory Frame has dedicated her scientific career to understanding, capturing and preserving the most precious aspects of life in the same wa...
  • Sherri
    After sitting on this for a few days, I'm giving this 3 stars for a solid, enjoyable book that didn't quite work for me. This book is nearly impossible to rate, so I'll skip the star rating for now. I listened to it, but am planning to re-read in print. The writing is exquisite and the story is fascinating. Even though I loved the narrator, the experimental style and sheer number of words used to tell the story made it a bit more difficult to tak...
  • Milky Mixer
    One review of this book called the writing "glass sharp." Unfortunately, I didn't find the writing to be "glass clear." I wanted to love this book so much more than I did. But I found it frustrating from the first couple of pages, on and on through its dreamlike incoherence and narrative shifts through different times, countries, memories, voices with no quotation marks, lists and broken sentences to shape mood, poetic prose, very poetic but almo...
  • Michelle
    4.5 starsReview to come.
  • Margot
    3.5 stars. This book requires patience and generosity. Frequent time shifts make it hard to follow and the layering of minutiae and scenes of small, exacting detail felt like writing from the 19th century, or a time when people had longer attention spans. Still, the language dazzles and piereces in places, and I cared enough about Ivory's story - her art, her scientific research, her love affairs - to keep going, to unravel and then weave back to...
  • Tonstant Weader
    Michelangelo would be baffled by today’s separation of art and science, whether he hid anatomical drawings in The Sistine Chapel or not. Ivory Frame, however, finds a way to unite art and science in studying and creating her “Dictionary of Animal Languages.” A story that jumps from the present to the past, Heidi Sopinka’s The Dictionary of Animal Languages tells the story of an artist/biologist loosely based on the life of Leonora Carring...
  • Barbara
    2/5. I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via the Goodreads giveaway"The Dictionary of Animal Languages" tells the story of our main character, Ivory Frame, from her childhood to her life in Paris up until WWII, and her focus on her life's work with animals after. This story is told in a non-linear format, changing from Ivory's present-day life at the age of ninety two, to various points in her past such as early childhood a...
  • Lucy
    Ill-fated love. Art. War. Madness. Sadness. It should have been enough to build a book, but this book just sits there, not going anywhere, not achieving anything. In the opening pages, Ivory Frame, in her 90’s, learns that she has a granddaughter - even though she never had a child. We never learn much more about the daughter or granddaughter. Most of the book just goes on and on about Ivory pining for the man she loved during The War, the man ...
  • Lee Razer
    More so than most novels, I think opinions on this one will depend upon the reader's reaction to the author's writing style. If the reader enjoys it, it will be given descriptors like poetic, lyrical, dreamlike, beautiful. If not, it will be florid, overbearing, incoherent, choppy. Here's a sample:I think of this place. Full of its imagery. The poetics. The corners of antiquity. The disquiet. As though the city was invented for Tacita. And here I...
  • Nofar Spalter
    "The Dictionary of Animal Languages" is a technically difficult novel to read: the language is dense, the plot isn't linear and at least at first it takes time to figure out who is talking, what's going on, and in which timeline (one of the several past ones, or the present) you are. It doesn't help that dialog isn't delineated with quotation marks and often it isn't clear who is talking, or whether they are talking or you are in their mind. If i...
  • Leah Rachel von Essen
    The Dictionary of Animal Languages is a lovely, strange novel that I did not expect. Heidi Sopinka writes about Paris before the war, tragic love between artists, and this old woman looking back on a life of an art/science project that gathers the languages of animals to preserve them, to raise awareness for extinction and preservation. While I think it got a bit too direct in the final chapters, making connections explicitly that were better sho...
  • Nicole Beaudry
    Breathtaking prose, a charming and relatable main character in Ivory Frame, and a tenderly drawn, realistic love story that ends in a way that the reader won't come to expect from this type of novel. Heidi Sopinka is a generous author, giving the reader delicious vocabulary to savour, with sentences that sit like a pearl in your mouth, all while hinting at a plot that has a resolution one can't come close to expecting - in fact, there's little re...
  • Brenda Baker
    I really don't know what to think about this book. I really loved some of the thoughts on art, language, animals and especially many of the bits about birds. And the story of Ivory and Lev is interesting. But it is told in this fragmented way jolting back and forth in time and with long pauses in which nothing happens for long stretches that I almost put this down several times.... But I kept telling myself that this was probably intentional and ...
  • Helen McClory
    Started strong and lost focus, I think and suffered from revelation-itis, but had also some really beautiful moments and instances of what it means to be an artist under the pressure of life (and WW2's) agonies.
  • Angie
    I won a copy of this novel by Sopinka in a Goodreads contest. The novel is slated to come out in February, 2018. This is a very beautifully written story about an older woman, Ivory Frame, who is a renowned artist and scientist. She has never married or had a family, so when she receives a letter saying she has a granddaughter, the shock brings her painful past to light. We go back to her unhappy childhood and then to World War II in Paris where ...
  • Joy Korones
    Something of a chore
  • Ehrrin
    Maybe 4.5, but I'm feeling generous, and I already miss Ivory.
  • Dominic Smith
    The front cover of the book has a quote on it from Claire Cameron that reads “reading this book is like falling in love.” She is undeniably right. It’s a painful, confusing, all-consuming, beautiful, terrifying, gut-wrenching read.