Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams review – a gentle, hopeful story

Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams review – a gentle, hopeful story

The Guardian

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Based on real events, this tale of the OED’s compilation explores how words take on different meanings for men and women

In 1901, a concerned member of the public wrote to the men compiling the first Oxford English Dictionary to let them know that there was a word missing. In 1857 the Unregistered Words Committee of the Philological Society of London had decided that Britain needed a successor to Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary. It had taken 40 years for the first volume – the letters A and B – to be published, and now they had only gone and left out a word.

The word was “bondmaid”, and when Australian author Pip Williams learned of its exclusion, she knew she had the makings of a novel. The Dictionary of Lost Words tells the story of the OED’s compilation through the fictional Esme, daughter of one of the men working on it, and her interactions with characters based on the real men and women behind the book.

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