I’d never actually even heard of The Dictionary of Lost Words until I saw it spotlighted over at Stephanie’s blog, but one look at the book made me want to do a Cover Crush. I was so attracted to the vines, softly spread across the cover as they perhaps danced lightly in a breeze. The contrast of golden against the black fits perfectly in color scheme as well as mood or even theme with the suitcase as it reminds me of travel—perhaps that undertaken by words as they make their way through time and across continents, influencing wars and ways, thoughts driving human behavior for better or worse.
Such contraries might be represented by the cup of tea and poppy, both resting gently on top of the suitcase’s contents, belonging perhaps to these traveling words who must do duty by gentility and barbarism alike. Dangerous men go home at night to tender children, pretty words styled by syllables that dance across tongues like leaves in the wind often masking the cruelty they so often designate.
What iniquities might these be? Perhaps they are hidden in that suitcase words carry through the ages until they reach us, and we are thus confronted with the legacy they leave wrapped in the cloaks that shroud both love and loss, and everything in between.
Book Information and Blurb:
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
Published: April 6, 2021 by Ballantine Books|ISBN 978-0593160190
Format: Hardcover | Pages: 400
In this remarkable debut based on actual events, as a team of male scholars compiles the first Oxford English Dictionary, one of their daughters decides to collect the “objectionable” words they omit.
Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where 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 when she learns that the word means “slave girl,” she 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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