#20BooksOfSummer 6: The Wordsmith -Patricia Forde

#20BooksOfSummer is an annual event hosted by Cathy Brown of 746 Books and runs from 1st June until 1st September With the aim to clearing a target of 5, 10 or 20 books from your TBR but with very relaxed and fun rules.

Here is my joining post & List!

The Wordsmith -Patricia Forde

The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde
Cover designed and illustrated by Steve Simpson

In a world where the permitted language totals 500 words, and breaking the rules means being banished to the wolf-stalked post apocalyptic wastelands, the wordsmith is a unique position.

Letta’s job is to collect the surviving examples of written words, and to collate lists of specialist words for those who need them, but when an injured young man collapses in her shop she discovers that John Noa, the founder of Ark is not the saviour he is painted out to be, she is compelled to discover his plans which will change the future of humanity forever.

Trigger Warning: guarded referral to off-page torture, execution, human experimentation and suicide.

5 key words

Language Words Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian Control

The Wordsmith is a slow burner, one that will smoulder at your toes until you have failed to realise the whole of you is burning because you are so deep in Letta’s world. 

Forde’s writing is clever in that it takes its time and luxuriates in language, for she is describing a world robbed of such process and opportunity. Whilst at first this may seem like she is simply taking her time with the plot, but it clearly evolves into a protest of its own against the callous cruelty of robbing people of the ability to express themselves, to love, desire, hope. 

Vocabulary choices feel like jewels plucked from a treasure trove, shiny fruits of meaning and purpose dance on our tongues and minds as we roll them around against the clunking functionality of List, the 500 words allowed by John Noa for communication between inhabitants of Ark. And yet, Forde manages to avoid the pitfalls of too much vocabulary that certain styles of literary fiction fall into (you know the kind I mean) the language is always meaningful and accessible, never capricious or grandiose for the sake of showing off. Because that is not what Forde wants us to take away from the book. 

She had always dreamt of words. beautiful words, haunting words and, last night, terrifying words.

The reader steps away from Wordsmith renewed in the value and beauty of language as an expressive and functional form, even the little annoying grammar bits and pieces, connectives, pronouns and adjectives as the citizens of Ark are limited to a grunting troglodyte dialect of commands and requests. Robbed of words of love, of passion, of expression, and exacting scientific words to communicate meaning and learning these are seen as follies and wickedness of Desecrators whose selfish narcissism supposedly led the world into Climate collapse and the apocalyptic Melting that drowned billions. And yet, Patricia Forde underlines it is the people who use words not the words themselves that do good or evil, as she explores through the empathy filled freedom of the Desecrators (merely artists, musicians and rebels) and the calculating darkness of those supposedly saving and protecting humankind at the end of the world and that one group should not be robbed for the actions of another.

Letta and Marlo’s blossoming relationship acts as a metaphor for Letta’s own awakening to the world she has taken for granted, and that she has always been privileged within. For as a wordsmith apprentice she is permitted to speak off-List, and has watched as people are banished for doing the same. She steps outside the walls of Ark for the first time in her life and meets the survivors and descendants of the people who arrived too late, or were not deemed worthy to enter Ark such as scientists. She sees the fact that the world is not as simple, binary nor fair as she previously thought, and begins to experience empathy and anger and an understanding of her privilege and power to act against this system.

The Wordsmith is such a powerful and empowering book, begging readers to assess their own privilege and whether we are using what power we have for good, or allowing unfairness to continue, and encouraging us to value what freedoms we do have, the ability to express, to challenge and to love.

I’m looking forward to the sequel, Mother Tongue which deals with the aftermath of Letta’s rebellion.

The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde is published by Little Island books but is also known in the US as The List published by Sourcebooks


2 thoughts on “#20BooksOfSummer 6: The Wordsmith -Patricia Forde

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s