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The Dictionary of Lost Words  By  cover art

The Dictionary of Lost Words

By: Pip Williams
Narrated by: Pippa Bennett-Warner
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Publisher's summary

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK • “Delightful . . . [a] captivating and slyly subversive fictional paean to the real women whose work on the Oxford English Dictionary went largely unheralded.”—The New York Times Book Review

“A marvelous fiction about the power of language to elevate or repress.”—Geraldine Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of People of the Book

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.

WINNER OF THE AUSTRALIAN BOOK INDUSTRY AWARD

©2021 Pip Williams (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"A beautiful exploration of history and the power of language. For anybody who loves words and celebrates them, this subversive story weaves together love, loss and literature in a perfectly lyrical way.”—Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club May ’22 Pick)

“This remarkable novel tries to rectify a glaring oversight in the historical accounts of the first Oxford English Dictionary—the contributions of women . . . without whom the English language wouldn’t have evolved as fully and colorfully as it has.”Boston magazine

“Enchanting, sorrowful, and wonderfully written, the book is a one-of-a-kind celebration of language and its importance in our lives. A must-have.”Library Journal (starred review)