Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 11 minutes
First Published: 2020
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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.
Quotes from The Dictionary of Lost WOrds
Words define us, they explain us, and, on occasion, they serve to control or isolate us.
Some words are more than letters on a page, don’t you think? They have shape and texture. They are like bullets, full of energy, and when you give one breath you can feel its sharp edge against your lip.
A vulgar word, well placed and said with just enough vigour, can express far more than its polite equivalent.
Words are like stories … They change as they are passed from mouth to mouth; their meanings stretch or truncate to fit what needs to be said.
About Pip Williams
Pip Williams is a social researcher and the author of the memoir One Italian Summer and the novels The Dictionary of Lost Words and The Bookbinder. Williams currently lives in South Australia. Visit the author’s website →