The Dictionary of Lost Words Summary and Reviews

The Dictionary of Lost Words

by Pip Williams

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams X
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
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Book Summary

In this remarkable debut based on actual events, as a team of male scholars compiles the first Oxford English Dictionary, one of their daughters decides to collect the "objectionable" words they omit.

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where 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 when she learns that the word means "slave girl," she 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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In Williams's exuberant, meticulously researched debut, the daughter of a lexicographer devotes her life to an alternative dictionary....Though this sweeping effort takes some time to build momentum, the payoff is deeply satisfying. Williams's feminist take on language will move readers." - Publishers Weekly

"Williams provides readers with detailed background and biographical information pointing to extensive research about the OED and its editors, many of whom appear as characters in Esme's life. The result is a satisfying amalgam of truth and historical fiction. Who tells your story? Williams illuminates why women needed to be in the room where, and when, it's written." - Kirkus Reviews

"What a compelling, fresh look at historical women! In Pip Williams's lyrically written novel, The Dictionary of Lost Words, readers explore the creation of the so-called definitive Oxford English Dictionary through the eyes of Esme, a fictional female laborer on that great endeavor, and as her eyes open to the flaws and gender biases in the selection of included words and the definitions themselves, so do readers'. This marvelous exploration into the ways in which spoken and written language impact us is a delight and an education." - Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

"This charming, inventive, and utterly irresistible novel is the story we all need right now. Words have never mattered more, as Pip Williams illuminates in her unforgettable debut." - Susan Wiggs, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost and Found Bookshop

"What a novel of words, their adventure, and their capacity to define and, above all, challenge the world. There will not be this year a more original novel published. I just know it." - Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler's List

This information about The Dictionary of Lost Words shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Pip Williams

Pip Williams was born in London, grew up in Sydney, and now lives in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia with her family and an assortment of animals. She has spent most of her working life as a social researcher, studying what keeps us well and what helps us thrive, and she is the author of One Italian Summer, a memoir of her family's travels in search of the good life, which was published in Australia to wide acclaim. Based on her original research in the Oxford English Dictionary archives, The Dictionary of Lost Words is her first novel.

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