Five years old and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends much of her childhood hanging around her father and his team of lexicographers who are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Hiding under a table, she rescues a forgotten word - Bondmaid - from the floor, stashing it away in an old case. As Esme gets older, she begins to collect other words which have been misplaced, neglected or discarded by the men, and soon her own dictionary begins to grow: The Dictionary of Lost Words, which will help to teach her about how women's stories and words are so often discarded and unrecorded by history.
Taking place in a time when the women's suffrage movement was blossoming, this book reveals the female narrative hidden behind a history which was written by men. The novel revels in language and the power of words, but also explores the many ways in which words can fall short of reality, and how they can be harmfully turned against those they describe. This is a novel filled with engaging characters in a rich historical setting, and is endlessly rewarding and moving for anyone who loves books or language.
An extraordinary, charming novel... Williams pins a whole, rich life to the page
Poignant, perfectly paced... a beautifully nuanced work
Williams's satisfying novel animates a fascinating history and imbues it with a feminist slant, asking how words mean different things to men and women
This lovely slice of historical fiction... A highly enjoyable resonant tale about the hidden and frequently gendered stories behind the words we take for granted
A captivating and slyly subversive fictional paean to the real women whose work on the Oxford English Dictionary went largely unheralded
From historical tales to modern life dramas, laugh-out-loud love stories to fiendishly twisting thrillers – whatever your taste in novels, we have some perfect new voices to enjoy a well-earned break with this year.
Pip Williams’ bestselling novel The Dictionary of Lost Words aims to share a history that women were originally cut out of: charting the English language.