The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

Narrated by Pippa Bennett-Warner

Fact and fiction about the 1st Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary

My rating:  5 out of 5

This is the story of how the Oxford English Dictionary came into being, mixed in with great fiction. 

Esme’s father is part of the team working on the first edition of the dictionary, and Esme (a fictional character) accompanies him to his work from when she is very young child.   So begins Esme’s fascination with words, including the lost words that don’t make it into the dictionary – for a variety of reasons. 

Esme grows up against a background of the suffragette movement and the approach of World War 1.   She finds herself interested in looking for new words, in particular those pertaining to women, and through Esme’s eyes the reader learns how the dictionary grows from scraps of paper in a “garden shed”, to the finished product.  Mixed in with this is Esme’s personal story of the people she mixes with outside of the Scriptorium, which brings life and colour to the times she is living in, and the lives of women at that time. 

At the end there is an author’s note which explains which parts of the book are based on fact, talks about the characters and Pip Williams’ reasons for writing the book.

I listened to this as an audiobook, beautifully narrated, and loved the detail of putting together such a magnificent dictionary, intertwined with the stories of the lives of many woman of that time.  All in all an absolutely wonderful read – 5*s from me.    Perfect for anyone who loves a mix of fact and fiction. 

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