The dictionary of lost words : a novel / Pip Williams.
- ISBN: 9780593160190
- ISBN: 0593160193
- Physical Description: xiv, 376 pages : map ; 25 cm
- Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, 
- Copyright: ©2021 [map]
"Originally published in Australia by Affirm Press in 2020." -- title page verso.
|Formatted Contents Note:||
Prologue: February 1886 -- Part 1: 1887-1896. Batten-distrustful -- Part 2: 1897-1901. Lap-nywe -- Part 4: 1907-1913. Polygenus-sorrow -- Part 5: 1914-1915. Speech-sullen -- Part 6: 1928. Wise-wyzen -- Epilogue: Adelaide, 1989.
"The Dictionary of Lost Words is a work of fiction. All incidents and dialogue, and all characters with the exception of some well-known historical figures, are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Before the lost word, there was another. It arrived at the Scriptorium in a second-hand envelope, the old address crossed out and Dr Murray, Sunnyside, Oxford, written in its place. It was Da's job to open the post and mine to sit on his lap, like a queen on her throne, and help him ease each word out of its folded cradle. He'd tell me what pile to put it on and sometimes he'd pause, cover my hand with his, and guide my finger up and down and around the letters, sounding them into my ear. He'd say the word, and I would echo it, then he'd tell me what it meant"-- Provided by publisher.
Motherless, Esme 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. One day a slip of paper containing the word bondmaid flutters beneath the table. She rescues the slip, and is told that the word means "slave girl." Learning that words relating to women's and common folks' experiences often go unrecorded, Esme begins to collect other words discarded by the dictionary men. As she grows up, Esme begins in earnest to search out words for her own dictionary: the Dictionary of Lost Words. -- adapted from jacket
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The Dictionary of Lost Words : A Novel
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
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 and set during the women's suffrage movement in England. Motherless Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, the garden shed in the back of the house where her father works for the Scots-born lexicographer James Murray and his monk-like team, who are collecting words for the first edition of the OED. "Instead of storing shovels and rakes, the shed stored words." Some slips of paper carrying words are misplaced or discarded, and it is these "lost" words that Esme is determined to rescue from certain oblivion. The words that resonate with her range from the profane to the political. As Esme confronts sexism in her daily life, she finds solace in the meaning and significance of "women's words," which address the female experience. A lexicographer's dream of a novel, this is a lovely book to get lost in, an imaginative love letter to dictionaries.
Publishers Weekly Review
The Dictionary of Lost Words : A Novel
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
In Williams's exuberant, meticulously researched debut, the daughter of a lexicographer devotes her life to an alternative dictionary. As a young child in 1880s Oxford, Esme Nicoll is enchanted by the "Scriptorium," a shed behind their house where her father, Harry, works with a team to sort and select words for the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. When she finds the word "bondmaid" on a discarded slip and realizes the term refers to a female slave, Esme begins her own effort, the "Dictionary of Lost Words," stowing slips of words deemed unfit for the OED in a chest belonging to their servant, Lizzie. In her teens, Esme becomes further obsessed with which words make the cut--decisions primarily made by men--and listens to women in the marketplace, returning with suggestions for Harry. The ensuing bildungsroman carries the reader at a rapid pace through Esme's 20s, when she rubs shoulders with suffragettes, finds romance, and bonds with Lizzie while struggling to get her book of lost words printed. Though this sweeping effort takes some time to build momentum, the payoff is deeply satisfying. Williams's feminist take on language will move readers. Agent: Linda Kaplan, DeFiore and Co. (Apr.)