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The Dictionary of Lost Words: A Novel

Unabridged Audio Book

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Pippa Bennett-Warner

11 Hours 11 Minutes

Random House (Audio)

April 2021

Audio Book Summary

“Delightful . . . [a] captivating and slyly subversive fictional paean to the real women whose work on the Oxford English Dictionary went largely unheralded.”—The New York Times Book Review
WINNER OF THE AUSTRALIAN BOOK INDUSTRY AWARD • “A marvelous fiction about the power of language to elevate or repress.”—Geraldine Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of People of the Book

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, an Oxford garden shed in which her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Young Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word bondmaid flutters beneath the table. She rescues the slip and, learning that the word means “slave girl,” begins to collect other words that have been discarded or neglected by the dictionary men.

As she grows up, Esme realizes that words and meanings relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences often go unrecorded. And so she begins in earnest to search out words for her own dictionary: the Dictionary of Lost Words. To do so she must leave the sheltered world of the university and venture out to meet the people whose words will fill those pages.

Set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement and with the Great War looming, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. Inspired by actual events, author Pip Williams has delved into the archives of the Oxford English Dictionary to tell this highly original story. The Dictionary of Lost Words is a delightful, lyrical, and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words and the power of language to shape the world.

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  • Meflightrn

    I’ve always loved books and stories that are based on history even if the story is more fictional than historical. I found this book to be a beautiful love story of words, of the empowerment of women, of a desire to hold onto something with so much depth it will transcend time. The topic of the Oxford dictionary was so brilliant and I felt a personal message within the story for each of our relationships with words and also the struggles we each share around words. Communication is such an intrinsic part of our experiences and interactions with people and yet how often does our interpretation of a word vary from someone else? While this book is a work of historical fiction it also holds a key to how easily what we say can be misunderstood. Thank you Pip for bringing that key to your work. I truly loved this book.

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  • Cheryl Z.

    An excellent book! Great look into the time period and makes one wonder how many other things could be different if women had even a slight voice! Highly recommend this book!!

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  • Linda S.

    I really enjoyed this book, mostly because of the narration.

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  • Cathycat

    Ok, not one of my favs

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