#amreading – What, Why, While :  The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

What (am I currently reading)?

I am currently listening to the audio book The Dictionary of Lost Words written by Pip Williams and narrated by Pippa Bennett-Warner.  This is literary fiction about how the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was written and printed. At the same time the women’s suffrage movement is growing and a little girl is wondering why some words are selected for inclusion in the dictionary and others ignored.     

The hard cover edition was published on 8th April 2021 by Chatto and Windus.  The paperback is being released in January 2022, published by Vintage.  I am listening to the Audible version which was released in April 2021.

Book Blurb (taken from www.goodreads.com  )

In 1901, the word ‘Bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the ‘Scriptorium’, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor. Esme rescues the slip and stashes it in an old wooden case that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.

Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. While she dedicates her life to the Oxford English Dictionary, secretly, she begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Set when the women’s suffrage movement was at its height and the Great War loomed, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. It’s a delightful, lyrical and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words, and the power of language to shape the world and our experience of it.

Why (have I chosen to read it)?

This has been highly recommended by many on Twitter, and as I love a book that is both enjoyable to read and I can learn something from, it flew straight onto my TBR pile.  So far it is living up to my expectations. 

While (I  am reading it) 

Every year we walk the 18km over the mountains from where my husband and I had our honeymoon to where we were married (many years ago).  It is a 5 ½ hour walk with stunning views, a lot of uphill and only a scattering of farm huts along the way!  It is important to get the weather right, low cloud would be a disaster, as would recent rain that has fallen as snow up there.  Last week we thought the weather would be right, and met cloud, drizzle and plenty of sunshine.   Also cows alongside our path with their calves, and “free range”, but not wild, horses. 

All the best, Emma

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