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Dictionary of Lost Words, The

Williams, Pip

  40 Reviews

Given the large tracts of her childhood spent happily hidden under the sorting table adjacent to the lexicographers, it seemed inevitable that Esme Nicoll's life would be bound up with the publication of the first Oxford English Dictionary. Initiated in 1879 and completed in 1928, it is at the centre of this story with Esme's life playing out around its development, the rise of the suffrage movement and the horrors of WWI.

But Esme has something special to contribute to the herculean task of defining the English language - an abiding passion for the words discarded by the dictionary men, especially those relating to women.

Thought-provoking and original, this story immerses the fictional Esme into the world of the Oxford English Dictionary and the men and women in its sphere.

Pages
422
Year
2020

Reviews

FEILD 002
17-01-2024
A compelling read.
HAMIL 007
11-01-2024
Members were unanimous in their rating of this book -we all thought it was excellent and even worth re-reading, because it's a page turner in parts and it's easy to miss important details. We particularly admired the depth of Williams' research and her seamless blend of real and invented characters. Another thing the book did for us was to humanise and enrich our understanding of the production of the Oxford Dictionary, a cultural monument that we have all used and enjoyed both in work and recreation. We all enjoyed the book immensely; it made us think and sparked considerable discussion.
CHCH 553
14-12-2023
A really interesting read. Prompted lots of good conversations about the development of the dictionary and the historical contexts of the time such as suffrage and WWI and also the connections to current conversations around language with the new government.
NAP 034
02-10-2023
One of our best books this year. The majority of the group really loved the combination of the fiction and non-fiction in the story. There were lots of interesting parts in the book and sometimes we wanted more depth. We had good conversations about words, language and the role of women in the development of language.
TAUR 062
26-09-2023
We all found this book really interesting and none of us had thought of how the dictionary had been put together. Clever how she wrote on historical events and also wove in a fictional story.
AUCK 172
08-08-2023
Some thought it needed editing, and the themes of WWI and suffragettes too lightly written. Generally enjoyed.
COROM 002
08-08-2023
All enjoyed this interesting and beautiful story woven around real events in the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, women's suffrage, and WWI, plus mention of the Aboriginal languages... We are looking forward to reading her next novel, 'The Bookbinder of Jericho'. Very good discussion. It brought alive people's feelings in these times, especially women.
DUNED 005
17-07-2023
Everyone enjoyed this book and we had some good discussion around language.
TEPUK 006
13-07-2023
A good read. Most enjoyed. Some found it predictable and a little gloomy. Interesting how facts, real events and real people were effectively woven within the fictional narrative.
NELS 023
10-07-2023
The majority (10/12) of our group thoroughly enjoyed this book. There was much to learn about the Oxford Dictionary, the Suffragette movement and WWI. Very easy to read and engrossing.
WELL 213
27-06-2023
Our group generally agreed this was a wonderful novel, cleverly based on facts and historical events. Some enjoyed the first half more, not liking the number of deaths occurring in the second half. Not surprisingly, the writing is very good.
MAPUA 001
26-06-2023
We all enjoyed this book. Thought it was beautifully written, thought-provoking, and led to discussion on many different topics.
WELL 189
23-06-2023
Beautifully written, vivid and descriptive - a "slow read" book. Interesting storyline - something very different. Story really 'rang true' to the period.
TIMAR 022
15-06-2023
Well-written. Enjoyed by almost all of the group.
WAIKA 002
08-06-2023
We all enjoyed the weaving of real people and events into the fictional tale of Esme. A great perspective from the unheard people of the time - women, the poor, soldiers at the front in WW1.
DUNED 114
02-06-2023
The book became interesting as we got into it. A window into women's lives at the time. Great mixing of real people who existed in history with fictional characters.
CHCH 324
22-05-2023
Very well-written, brings history alive. A little long though, with small print.
WANAK 010
04-05-2023
Overall our group enjoyed the book, for some the beginning was a bit slow. We particularly enjoyed the way the author intertwined fact and fiction. A fascinating insight into society over the time the dictionary was put together, lots of discussion around gender bias in language development, evolving nature of words and how meanings change over time. Thought provoking.
TEPUK 004
03-05-2023
Great discussion. Group arrived with all manner of dictionaries!
ROTO 012
02-05-2023
The book was enjoyed by everyone - for the language, the historical situation and the story. A fantastic read.
NAP 011
28-04-2023
Nearly everyone in our group loved this book. Great characters, fascinating history of the Oxford dictionary and women's suffrage & inequality. Not a quick read.
BLENH 011
20-04-2023
Most of us loved the book, and found it an excellent telling of social history.
TIMAR 007
17-04-2023
We found it a very interesting and satisfying read. Liked the mixture of fact and fiction.
AUCK 248
20-03-2023
An interesting book. Generated lots of discussion around gender equality. Thought provoking content.
TAKA 004
13-03-2023
Great discussion, very wide ranging across issues of gender and bias. Enjoyable book with slightly removed impersonal tone around the main characters - liked by some.
AUCK 015
07-03-2023
A haunting story that was a comfortable easy read. Believable fiction expertly woven into historical fact. An excellent read for those interested in the development of the English language and the place of women in society in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
CHCH 268
27-02-2023
We had a really in depth discussion around this book. The story beautifully married Esme's fictional experience into the historical story around the Oxford Dictionary, along with the social history of the period. Great characters in Lizzie, Ditte, Esme and Esme's father.
NELS 048
12-01-2023
Everyone enjoyed the book and we had an excellent discussion.
CHCH 333
09-01-2023
The group enjoyed this book. Some found the beginning slow. Lots of discussion.
LOWER 019
05-12-2022
Mostly enjoyed by all although some found it a little slow. Very interesting read!
FERN 001
17-11-2022
Enjoyed by almost everyone. Notes at the end were really interesting and relevant. Time needed to read book.
CHCH 395
17-11-2022
Everyone loved this book, some said the best of the year. It is a larger book but very easy to read. The fiction and historical fact were woven together beautifully.
AUCK 071
08-11-2022
Some members thought the book was too long, but worth persevering. Dictionary history fascinating and woven cleverly through the story using a mixture of known and fictional characters. So many topics to discuss, we could have continued for hours!
AUCK 335
08-11-2022
Enjoyed by everyone. Very interesting historical context, well-drawn characters, skillful blending of fact and fiction, particularly with regard to the compilation of the OED. A gentle style made this easy to read while the questions it raises about gendered language, who makes decisions about language, whose voices are unheard, remain significant today.
AUCK 027
13-10-2022
We all enjoyed it. Set the scene well - the author did a great job of weaving fact and fiction - very clever.
DARF 004
01-10-2022
A real winner for the group. Almost everyone read and enjoyed the new words we all learnt. It brought up good discussions about the lack of women in history in general as well.
WHANG 008
19-09-2022
We found this original and captivating, covering a wide range of important issues in our recent history.
CHCH 487
24-08-2022
We all really enjoyed this book. We have a mixed group of both men and women and the discussion was excellent the men in particular were given insight into women's experiences (both in the historical context of the book and our present day reality). Besides this, the historical details around the formation of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary were fascinating. We all felt we learned a lot about this piece of history.
TAUP 005
21-07-2022
Great acclaim for this book. A true historical drama that provided readers with an emotive read, mixed with insights to people living and contributing to the development of the OED.
TEKUI 001
29-04-2022
Thoroughly enjoyed by all.