The Dictionary of Lost Words Published by Random House Publishing Group on April 6, 2021
Source: Library book
Genres: Fiction / Biographical, Fiction / Historical / General, Fiction / Women
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK FOR MAY ’22! • “Delightful . . . [a] captivating and slyly subversive fictional paean to the real women whose work on the Oxford English Dictionary went largely unheralded.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A marvelous fiction about the power of language to elevate or repress.”—Geraldine Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of People of the Book
Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, an Oxford garden shed in which her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Young Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word bondmaid flutters beneath the table. She rescues the slip and, learning that the word means “slave girl,” begins to collect other words that have been discarded or neglected by the dictionary men.
As she grows up, Esme realizes that words and meanings relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences often go unrecorded. And so she begins in earnest to search out words for her own dictionary: the Dictionary of Lost Words. To do so she must leave the sheltered world of the university and venture out to meet the people whose words will fill those pages.
Set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement and with the Great War looming, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. Inspired by actual events, author Pip Williams has delved into the archives of the Oxford English Dictionary to tell this highly original story. The Dictionary of Lost Words is a delightful, lyrical, and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words and the power of language to shape the world.
WINNER OF THE AUSTRALIAN BOOK INDUSTRY AWARD
A Reeses Book Club pick for May is the intriguing synopsis about how the word Bondmaid went missing from the Dictionary and an in-depth look at the girl who stole it. Esme is easy to like character and seeing the creation of the Dictionary through her eyes made for a fascinating Historical Fiction novel. I am sure few of us have a grasp on the composition of the first Oxford English Dictionary. The amount of effort of the scholars (primarily men) to research, define and decide the importance of words. The novel is multi-layered, impeccably researched, and shines a spotlight on the unique and remarkable contributions of not just the men but also the women.
The bittersweet backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement and the war at times made me tear up as Esme tries to navigate the world as a young lady that at times is still seen as a child. Her relationship with people over the meaning of words and how various people use them made for some fascinating insight.
I highly recommend it to historical fiction lovers and those who enjoy books centered around historical moments and characters.