The Dictionary of Lost Words

Ballantine. Apr. 2021. 400p. ISBN 9780593160190. $28.
DEBUT NOVEL Esme Nicoll’s love of words began underneath her father’s desk inside the Scriptorium, a garden shed where a team of lexicographers and assistants fashioned the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. One day, a slip falls from a Scriptorium desk and lands in Esme’s lap. Believing it to be discarded, Esme pockets the slip and stores it in a wooden chest. As she grows, Esme continues to collect words and slowly begins to understand that the words used by women and poor people are often deemed unworthy to be immortalized in print. As she diligently devotes her life to the Oxford English Dictionary, Esme decides to give voice to the unwritten words by writing her own lexicon in secret—the Dictionary of Lost Words. Set in England in the harrowing era of women’s suffrage and the Great War, this fiction debut, by social researcher and memoirist Williams (One Italian Summer), uncovers perspectives that might have been lost if not for Esme’s love and dedication.
VERDICT Enchanting, sorrowful, and wonderfully written, the book is a one-of-a-kind celebration of language and its importance in our lives. A must-have for every library collection.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing