Review #327

I felt like “The Dictionary of Lost Words” was too slow and gave it a 3/5 stars. There’s some comments below from when I was reading but honestly I don’t have much to say.

Here’s the blurb:

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.

And here’s my notes:

This is the first novel I’ve read in a long time that has a table of contents. It looks like there will be 6 parts in chronological order from 1887-1928. Here we go!

Excellent opening scene! “The blackened shards of the word were stuck to my melted skin.” How cryptically poetic! 

Esme is a young girl (some age younger than 13) and in the sole care of her father, a lexicographer who collects words with his colleagues to create a dictionary. She is fascinated by language and words and wants to follow in his footsteps when she’s older. Esme tells her secrets to her maid, Lizzie, who of a different economic background than Esme, though our young heroine hasn’t come to grips with what this means yet. She’s hoping that the words surrounding her daily helps her better figure out her world without a mother to explain this world to her. 

Im all done with Part 1 and it’s been a little slow so we shall see where the next part leads. She is 14, just got her period for the first time, and headed to a boarding school. I love her fascination with words but I need more with the plot soon. 

The way we learned she was physically abused by teachers at the boarding school came in such a roundabout and removed way that it was confusing at first. I wish I had more of her feelings on the situation. 

At page 87 I’m extremely bored. Nothing is happening. 

She met Gareth so they’re a small chance of romance but I don’t really care enough about Esme to root for her in any relationship. She is so flat and the story is all telling. I’ve only made it this far out of hopes that it’ll pick up and get more interesting but I’m worried it’ll stay this plateaued. 

I’m glad she’s learning of women’s rights and making a stand, but the story itself is still so bland. 

The unwanted pregnancy out of wedlock didn’t feel to add too much to the story and her growth overall. At the halfway make I’m struggling to find a point to a lot of it and will probably start skimming soon. 

I’m glad Lizzie still had a predominant role in the later part of the novel. 

Spoiler alert:

The beginning of part 6 was just like… what? An abrupt ending. It felt like an easy out to just get the story over with.

But also, a friend of mine actually passed away 2 weeks ago from the same accident. She was only 38. So that mirroring sucks. Anyways, this wasn’t the book for me. Very slow and mundane.

Published by CassieSwindon

Fiction author

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