The Dictionary of Lost Words

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Creating the Oxford English Dictionary was a Herculean task as well as a labor of love that took well over forty years. Although the editors were all men, women also worked on it, albeit without credit and with insufficient pay.

The Dictionary of Lost Words imagines Esme, a young girl, daughter of one of the philologists, who sits under the table and picks up discarded slips of paper. She hides this contraband in a small trunk. As Esme grows up and begins to work on the dictionary herself, she becomes more interested in the words that were omitted, especially the terms that women uttered or that described topics men deemed unimportant. Esme saves these words without hope of ever being able to publish them but with a burning determination to document and preserve what she can.

This novel explores womanhood at a time when we lacked the right to vote. British class divisions just before World War I would break many barriers and alter the meanings of many words, both said and censored. Esme is a wonderful character: stubborn, not always brave, but very clear on what she wants to achieve. The writing is glorious; I dog-eared many pages as I read, marking passages that helped me see words in a new way.

Reviewed By:

Author Pip Williams
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 400 pages
Publisher Ballantine Books
Publish Date 06-Apr-2021
ISBN 9781338587357
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue April 2021
Category Popular Fiction


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