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The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

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Calling all lexicographers, lovers of language and devotees of the Oxford English Dictionary. Pip Williams’ clever and charming debut introduces us to Esme, the daughter of one of the lexicographers working on the first edition of the OED. As she grows up, she learns that many of the discarded words are related to women’s experiences, so she sets out to write her very own "Dictionary of Lost Words". This delightful page-turner will make readers think about the power of language, who decides which words get written into our shared history, and whose stories may have been left out.

“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
WINNER OF THE AUSTRALIAN BOOK INDUSTRY AWARD • “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.

Number of pages: 432
Dimensions: 198 x 130 (mm)