The Dictionary of Lost Words Book Review

If you can get to a bookstore or find yourself on Amazon tomorrow (4/6/2021), do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Pip Williams' The Dictionary of Lost Words. It's such an interesting look at the meaning of words and the history of words from male and female perspectives, and it's all set against the real backdrop of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary.

As a child, Esme plays where her father works: in the Scriptorium where he and other men compile words and their definitions for inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary. If a slip of paper with a word on it happens to fall from one of the men's desks, Esme collects it and keeps it for herself in a trunk. To her, these words are lost and forgotten, and she loves discovering them and learning them.

As she gets older, her love of words and desire to work alongside her father grows. But she learns that not all words are deemed appropriate for inclusion - decided upon by men - and not all words are the ones spoken by the common people of England. Some words have special meanings only to the women who use them. 

There was only one small part of this novel that bothered me. I wished that Esme had been a little bolder when it came to making her collection of women's words public. It's teased here and there, and you think she's ready to air out her words, and then... Well, read the book and you'll see what happens.

I loved this fictionalization of a historic event, and that the author included real people from that time for authenticity. And the backdrop of women's suffrage and World War I makes the learning and knowing of words even more urgent.

The Dictionary of Lost Words is published by Ballantine Books and will be available to purchase on April 6, 2021. I received a free e-ARC in exchange for this review.