2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 265 books.

Book Review: The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

I am captivated by books about books and words. I myself am a lifelong lover of both, and find that others who feel the same generally craft beautiful tales in homage to our great loves… Pip Williams has crafted one such tale.

I was more familiar than many with the history of the OED, as I’ve been fascinated by the concept of the origin of the dictionary since stumbling upon Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman decades ago. It’s a bizarre thing, to think about where definitions came from – and which words were deemed important enough to be definable. Williams does a remarkable job capturing the essence of that challenge while also reminding us that, as a man-made creation, the dictionary is only as inclusive and perfect as those who created it. And those were, mostly, men. Men of a particular background – social, educational, and ideologic. Men of a particular time and mentality. And while those men may well have done their best, by virtue of their perspective, their best was narrower in focus than reality might suggest…

The concept of Esme’s “lost words” was a marvelous way to capture this, as was the emphasis on the efforts of Edith and the Murray daughters – efforts that have never received the attention or praise that they were due. Intertwining the development of the dictionary with changes in societal mores and the rights of the disenfranchised (literally and figuratively), Williams has created a beautiful tale that is every bit as edifying as it is entertaining. Her characterizations are spot-on – I felt an unbelievable connection with her characters and struggled, lost and prevailed right along with them from the opening pages.

This was a magnificent example of historical storytelling and I’m definitely keeping Pip Williams at the top of my “To Be Watched” list going forward!

Thanks to NetGalley for my obligation-free review copy.

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