Author(s): Pip Williams
In 1901, the word bondmaid was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.
Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme's place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word bondmaid flutter to the floor unclaimed. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others - that words and meanings relating to women's experiences often go unrecorded. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.
Set when the women's suffrage movement was at its height and the Great War loomed, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men.
'THE book of lockdown 2020. This is the absorbing story of Esme, who participated in the writing of the Oxford Dictionary and all the tumult of the early 20th century – the fight for the vote, World War I and its aftermath. Written by Australian Pip Evans, it's a moving, compelling novel – perfect for curling up with on the couch on a cold afternoon.' - Bookgrove staff review
Indie Book Awards 2021Book of the Year & Debut Fiction
Pip was born in London, grew up in Sydney and now calls the Adelaide Hills home. She is co-author of the book Time Bomb: Work Rest and Play in Australia Today (New South Press, 2012) and in 2017 she wrote One Italian Summer, a memoir of her family's travels in search of the good life, which was published with Affirm Press to wide acclaim. In The Dictionary of Lost Words she combines her talent for historical research with beautiful storytelling. She has delved into the archives of the Oxford English Dictionary and found a tale of missing words and the lives of women lived between the lines.