William Thacker: Lingua Franca
*Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review by Legend Press through their Legend 100 Club. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.
Miles Platting is pulled from the ruins of a shipwreck into a world in which no one will speak to him. The founder of Lingua Franca – a naming rights agency committed to renaming every UK town after a corporate sponsor – Miles recounts the story of his quest for linguistic supremacy to anyone who’ll listen. Confined to his hospital bed in a deathly quiet ward, Miles seeks to find his colleagues and reunite with his true love. But in doing so, Miles must confront his deepest held convictions and consider, ‘what’s in a name?’ in a world where the spoken word has been replaced by silence.
I’ve never heard of William Thacker before, but it appears that he is up-and-coming within the literary world having written screenplays and being the co-writer behind the feature-length Morrissey biopic, Stephen. With that in mind, I was heading into this novel blind with no real understanding of Thacker’s writing style or the types of books he had previously written.
I was in love with Lingua Franca from the first page. Within the first paragraph I was already laughing as the main character talked about the three words he felt should never have been translated into English: moist, phlegm, and flaccid – and I totally agreed with him! There are a lot of witty and humorous moments speckled throughout the novel which I felt gave a lively vibe to the overall narrative of the story which holds a serious underlying message. Thackers’ writing style is simple yet elegant with no indulgence in description, providing the right balance to bring a story that is easy to read and understand.
Lingua Franca is a thought-provoking novel that highlights the importance of the spoken and written word and left me, many times, thinking about the future of the English language and the many changes it has gone through in my lifetime alone: slang, colloquialisms. It truly makes you realise that the words we know today, and the words from our childhood, are no longer – or will no longer be – around. This is a topic that drew me instantly as, being an English Literature student, I am frequently reminded through my lecturers of the futility of language and the many words – in particular those relating to the outdoors and nature – that are falling out of fashion in favour of words such as selfie, celebrity, twirk etc. Though this is the key theme within the novel, there is no feeling of being force fed all of this information or being told that this is something you need to think about. Thacker is outspoken yet, at the same time, subtle about the importance of our language through the companies services of changing town names to those of corporate brands. It is this element of the novel that I found refreshing and new – I couldn’t help but laugh at towns being named after bookstores, cinema chains, and fashion outlets.
The conflict presented due to Miles’ need to control and advance the English language is very well implemented and illustrates that the English language is something that we all have control over, and that no one person can truly eradicate or alter words, it is something done over time. At the beginning of the novel, the silence of other characters seems confusing and left me questioning whether he had some mental illness or the world had spiraled into some weird language apocalypse that he could not control. As Miles’ story is told, it all becomes clear and fits in seamlessly with the flow of the narrative.
Thacker did a brilliant job overall and I’m really impressed by how the novel came across. It was refreshing to see a novel (mainly because I have never read one) that focuses on language and the written word and has left a very good impressions on me upon completion. I will definitely be looking into reading more of Thacker’s work in the near future. A superb and quick read.