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.
An interesting book. Generated lots of discussion around gender equality. Thought provoking content.
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.
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.
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.
Everyone enjoyed the book and we had an excellent discussion.
The group enjoyed this book. Some found the beginning slow. Lots of discussion.
Mostly enjoyed by all although some found it a little slow. Very interesting read!
Enjoyed by almost everyone. Notes at the end were really interesting and relevant. Time needed to read book.
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.
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!
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.
We all enjoyed it. Set the scene well - the author did a great job of weaving fact and fiction - very clever.
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.
We found this original and captivating, covering a wide range of important issues in our recent history.
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.
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.
Thoroughly enjoyed by all.