Review: The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

Did you know ...  the word 'Bondmaid' was discovered to be missing from early editions of the Oxford English Dictionary? (Read more here.) In The Dictionary of Lost Words, Adelaide author Pip Williams expertly weaves this into the story of a little girl who steals the word and keeps it, along with many other words that were discarded by the men tasked with sorting through the entries for the dictionary. Unsurprisingly, many of these words pertain to the experiences of women. Esme spends a good chunk of her childhood in the Scriptorium, a place that has an almost romantic edge to it for lovers of words but was, in fact, a garden shed in Oxford where various men were tasked with collecting words that were sent to them for inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary. When she is young, Esme is welcomed there, and spends much of her time collecting words, but as she grows older, her presence is tolerated less and less, until she is eventually sent away to school and discovers the harsh realities of being a middle class woman in England in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. 

This is a well written story of women's suffrage. It is also a well written story of words. But most important of all, it is a story of how both of those themes intersect, of how some words are considered to be more important than others, and who got to decide, and how. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. I felt that the author demonstrated not only a genuine love for the subject matter, but for her character as well. 

Highly recommended.

Thank you to Affirm Press for my ARC of The Dictionary of Lost Words

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2020

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