The Dictionary of Lost Words
Discover the internationally bestselling debut, SHORTLISTED FOR THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL FICTION
‘If you only read one book this year, let it be this one!’ FIVE STAR NETGALLEY READER REVIEW
‘An extraordinary, charming novel… Williams pins a whole, rich life to the page’ The Times
In 1901, the word ‘bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.
Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary.
Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutter to the floor unclaimed.
Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.
PRAISE FOR THE DICTIONARY OF LOST WORDS
‘Set at a time when women’s voices were clamouring more than ever to be heard, it moved me greatly to think how history is skewed by those who hold power — and how important it is that novels like this redress that balance’ Elizabeth Macneal, author or The Doll Factory
‘A brilliant book about women and words – tender, moving and profound’ Jacqueline Wilson
‘I absolutely loved this book! Thought-provoking, touching and subtly romantic; I finished it in tears’ Katie Fforde
MORE FIVE STAR NETGALLEY READER REVIEWS
‘If you’re a fan of The Binding and The Betrayals you will surely love this’
‘A glorious combination of words, growing up, friendship, love, feminism and so much more’
‘The best love letter to words and language’
‘This book broke my heart … I highly recommend it to any historical fiction fans … it’s one I will be reading again’
An enchanting story about love, loss and the power of language, what gets recorded and what gets forgotten. Set at a time when women's voices were clamouring more than ever to be heard, it moved me greatly to think how history is skewed by those who hold power -- and how important it is that novels like this redress that balance -- Elizabeth Macneal, author or The Doll Factory A brilliant book about women and words - tender, moving and profound -- Jacqueline Wilson 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 I absolutely loved this book! Thought-provoking, touching and subtly romantic; I finished it in tears -- Katie Fforde Inspired by a wisp of fact - a single word accidentally omitted from the Oxford English Dictionary - Pip Williams has spun a marvelous fiction about the power of language to elevate or repress. This is a novel that brings to light not only lost words, but the lost stories of women's lives. It is at once timely and timeless. In the annals of lexicography, no more imaginative, delightful, charming and clever book has yet been written. And if by writing it Pip Williams has gently rapped my knuckles for wrongly supposing that only white English men led the effort to corral and codify our language, then I happily accept the scolding. Her wonderfully constructed story has helped entirely change my mind. 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 compelling, fresh look at historical women! Lyrically written... This marvellous 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 Williams turns history as we know it on its head in this delightful debut, spotlighting those women and their contributions, using the awe-inspiring power of words themselves to illuminate them * Newsweek * In Williams's exuberant, meticulously researched debut, the daughter of a lexicographer devotes her life to an alternative dictionary... Deeply satisfying. Williams's feminist take on language will move readers * Publishers Weekly * The Herculean efforts required to assemble the Oxford English Dictionary are retold, this time from a fictionalized, distaff point of view, in Williams' debut novel. ...Underlying this panoramic account are lexicographical and philosophical interrogatives: Who owns language, does language reflect or affect, who chooses what is appropriate, why is one meaning worthier than another, what happens when a word mutates in meaning? ...The result is a satisfying amalgam of truth and historical fiction * Kirkus Reivews * Do words mean different things to men and women? That is the question at the heart of Williams' thoughtful and gentle first novel based on original research in the Oxford English Dictionary archives... A lexicographer's dream of a novel, this is a lovely book to get lost in, an imaginative love letter to dictionaries * Booklist *
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