‘The dictionary of lost words’ would put to shame any words I would use to describe it. But I will try anyway.
This book is about Esme, the thief of words.
Esme was born in the early 1900s, the daughter of a widowed father who therefore had no choice but to take her to work with him every morning. Not that he minded.
Her father’s work is very special, in fact he and many other lexicographers are creating the first Oxford English Dictionary.
From the moment she learns her first words, Esme is fascinated by them and immediately understands the great power they possess.
She spends her childhood under a table in the Scriptorium, a building constructed directly in the garden of Dr. James Murray, the head of the project.
Esme despite being a child always behaves well because she knows how important that work is to her father. But one day, a word falls into his lap, and although he knows it is wrong, he takes it.
From that day on Esme collects words, every single slip of paper that escapes the attention of the lexicographers ends up in a secret trunk.
Throughout the story we see Esme grow up and when she gets old enough, her talent for words is recognised and she starts working at the Scriptorium, the place that is more home to her than any other.
She stops stealing words but not collecting them.
In fact, Esme begins to realise that some words seem to be more important than others, depending on the pen they come from.
In fact, Dr Murray’s dictionary, despite putting itself on a pedestal of knowledge and honesty, favours words used by powerful men over those of any other person.
Esme begins to realise that her beloved dictionary does not do justice to the English language and begins to look up words, those truly spoken and known by everyone.
Regardless of gender, age or social class.
It is the 20th century and as the collection of words in Esme’s trunk continues to grow, women’s discontent begins to arise.
The word ‘suffragettes’ starts to appear in the newspapers and Esme has to decide which side to take.
In this book we have the opportunity to experience with Esme some very important historical years for the modern era.
We deal with history, feminist movements and the First World War, the difference in the lives of the upper and lower classes.
“The dictionary of lost words” is an excellent historical novel for those who like to feel part of the events that also marked our lives.
Esme has a hard life, she has a real life. Until the end.
This novel is inspired by a true story and many characters existed. Dr Murray was really in charge of the project to create the first Oxford English Dictionary and the Scriptorium was really in his backyard.
Many of the workers and the many volunteers you meet in the book did exist and at the end of the book the author does us the honour of telling us their story.
Would I recommend it?
I will tell you directly how I came across this book. I was buying books that had been in my TBR for a long time and suddenly I found this wonderful book in the recommendations.
The gorgeous cover immediately caught my attention and I knew I wanted such a beautiful book.
I know it’s not the best to rely on the cover but that’s how it goes sometimes.
I was already convinced but then I read the synopsis and boom, I ordered it without a second thought.
You don’t know how grateful I am to that cover.
It opened me up to a world full of emotions.
I am a lover of history and words have an important weight in my life, this book gathers my two passions in one.
When I started it I immediately liked its mysterious side but in the long run it began to bore me. I could see Esme grow, the years go by, but nothing happened.
It was frustrating but it had already happened to me with ‘The Invisible Life of Addie Larue‘, so I went on in the hope of seeing an improvement.
And it finally did, past the opening pages the rest of the book captivated me in an overwhelming way.
If adult life hadn’t gotten in the way I would have finished the rest of the book in half a day.
From feeling nothing the book started to show me all the emotions at my disposal.
It made me cry like a fountain.
I won’t tell you why, what happened, you will only find out by reading.
The writer has created a masterpiece, every single character is real, you feel like you know them personally. Read it, I assure you it is worth it.
The article ends here, now all you have to do is subscribe to the newsletter and Pinterest and go and read the work of art that is “The dictionary of lost words“!