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  • An excellent historical based on fact

    I received a free ARC of this excellent debut historical novel from Netgalley, Pip Williams, and Affirm Press. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read this novel of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. Pip Williams writes a warm, enveloping story emphasizing the importance of words - their definitions, their emotional cost, their versatility. Her characters are all well presented, very human, some flawed, very like the people you might know from your neighborhood. This is a book I will share with my nieces and nephews, the parents of our next generation. Never have words been more important than they are today. Our story begins in Oxford, England in 1887. Motherless Esme grew up spending her afternoons quietly beneath the table in the Scriptorium, a converted tool shed in the back garden of the first editor, Dr. James Murray, of the Oxford Dictionary, at his home known as Sunnyside, where her father and his co-workers spent their time collecting and defining words for a proposed book, a collection of English words and their various definitions to be published as the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Many people around the world were chosen to submit words for this venture; words submitted by mail with a quote of the word used in a sentence and written on a paper trimmed to 4" x 6". Words that had never appeared in print were discarded. As duplicate words were submitted with different quotes, they were all pinned into a single grouping to be added to as submissions came in. Duplicates were tossed, as were submissions without an authentic published use of the word. As a child Esme 'collected' cards from beneath the table in the Scriptorium and stored them in her friend Lizzy's room in Sunnyside, in a box under her bed. Only when it was discovered that a word was completely missing in the first edition of the dictionary, 'bondmaid', which had been submitted by one of the co-workers and should have been there, was her hobby exposed, though as a child she had no way of distinguishing which slips dropped under the sorting table were intentional discards from those rejected or simply lost. It brings to life for her the fact that many words used every day, especially those used by women and the poor, would never be in the 'official' dictionary. And thus began her serious collection of lost words. As an adult, by day she worked with her father and his co-workers verifying quotes and sorting the mail, but her weekends were spent wandering the markets and byways of town and jotting down words saved for her by her acquaintances and those of her friend Lizzy, a helpmate a year or two older than she who worked as a domestic in the house next door to the Scriptorium. Thus was begun the Dictionary of Lost Words with quotes from their submitters, the flower seller or fish wife, the domestic or working girl. I wish I had read the Afterword and Timeline, both located at the end of the novel before I read the Dictionary of Lost Words. The very much add to the relevance of The Dictionary of Lost words. Pip Williams has published a memoir, but this is her first novel.

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    7 person found this review helpful

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  • Fascinating Subject and Characters

    A book about words - how could I resist? This one gets off to a slow, but sweet, start. Esme goes to work with her father each day. He's part of a group of scholars who are compiling the original Oxford English Dictionary, and it's fascinating to learn about the process of such an undertaking. It's sweet to see Esme's relationship with her father, a single father doing his best to raise a daughter in the very early 20th century. As a small girl, she spends her time under the desks in the space where he works, and she begins to notice the "lost" words in the title, words that pass through the hands of the men compiling the dictionary but are deemed unworthy of inclusion in the dictionary. Many of these words seem to relate to women, the first she finds is "bondmaid", and she secretly collects those words. As Esme grows up she works more and more assisting the scholars in their research, and her world expands as she meets new people. It's an interesting time for women and the book has a wide variety of characters. Esme's journey is both uplifting and heartbreaking, and well worth the read. My thanks to Netgalley and Random House for providing a copy for an unbiased review.

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    4 person found this review helpful

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  • Alternative Thoughts

    Who would think a novel about the Oxford Dictionary would be gripping? The emotional journey is exceptional as the life of an inquisitive, kind and generous woman is described. An excellent read! Thank you, Pip!

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    2 person found this review helpful

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  • An amazing "must-read novel!"

    Thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Books & NetGalley for a digital advance reader copy. All comments and opinions are my own. #TheDictionaryofLostWords #NetGalley An amazing book - worth every star and more. Don't let the topic of the origins of the Oxford English Dictionary put you off, this is far from a dry or boring read - I hated to put it down, but also didn't want to read it too fast and have it come to an end. It is as story of a romance between a woman and words, as well as between this same woman and a man. Beginning in 1901 when Esme is a young girl, the novel describes her coming-of-age as she works in the "Scriptorium" assisting with the compilation of the OED, of which her father is one of the lexicographers. Due to her inquisitiveness, Esme discovers words and their meanings that go beyond what is being incorporated in the OED. These "extra" words help her make sense of the world and she incorporates them to create her own "Dictionary of Lost Words." Her word-building continues throughout her life, against the backdrop of the women's suffrage movement, World War I, and the morality of the time. I loved the way the author brought a personal perspective to these historical elements, through the viewpoints of memorable supporting characters who had close relationships with Esme. This novel was often melancholy in tone, due to Esme's experiences. But that made it a richer and more thoughtful read. The author's research, including attention to the lifestyle details of the time period, was exceptional. I enjoyed reading in the "Author's Note" at the conclusion of the novel which characters were based on real people, and how the author came to write this novel. Also featured after the story is a timeline of major historical events and a timeline of the development of the Oxford English Dictionary.

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  • Do yourself a huge favour.....

    Read this book. Its marvelous! I never would have found out about it except that it was my book clubs choice for November. Really ennoyed it all

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