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The Dictionary Of Lost Words by Pip Williams

We are SO EXCITED that “The Dictionary for Lost Words” by Pip Williams has been chosen as Reese Witherspoon’s May (and first Australian) Book Club pick!

Set during the height of women’s suffrage, this thought-provoking book explores history and the power of language while weaving together love, loss and literature. Although historical fiction, it’s a timely reminder of how important it is for woman to have the agency to tell their own stories.

ABOUT THE STORY: In 1901, the word ‘Bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of Esme – the girl who stole it. 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. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor. Esme rescues the slip and stashes it in an old wooden case that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.

Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. While she dedicates her life to the Oxford English Dictionary, secretly, she begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Here is what some of our wonderful QBD Staff Members think: 

“This book is an enthralling, coming-of-age read for lovers of words and language. Esme’s page-turning story begins with her time as a young girl collecting misplaced words from the Oxford English Dictionary sorting table. It spans some fifty years, between Oxford and Adelaide, and will make you laugh, cry and hunt down your dusty copy of the OED. A fantastic reading experience.” 

       –  Tiffany, QBD Strapthpine


“I read this magical novel from cover to cover in one night! Such a unique and empowering storyline with gorgeous, true characters, this book needs to be read and celebrated by many! Would highly recommend this book as a stand-alone novel to readers of all genres.”

       –  Chelsea, QBD Kawana


“This is a meticulously researched novel. Follow the story of Esme and the women in her life as she discovers the importance of women’s words during the development of the Oxford English Dictionary. Set against the backdrop of the suffragette movement and The Great War Esme finds a way that women’s words are never forgotten. The perfect story for those who love historical fiction, words, and language.”

        – Elizabeth, QBD Willows

“Those seeking a deeply rich and rewarding experience are going to be engrossed by Pip Williams’s Dictionary of Lost Words, it is a beautiful and graceful exploration into a language forgotten. This book is not only a tribute to lost words, but also the struggle women faced during the early 20th century. Word lovers and historical fiction enthusiasts rejoice, this is a modern classic in the making.”

           – Zoe, QBD Toombul 

To purchase “The Dictionary of Lost Words” by Pip Williams, you can visit the QBD Books website or your local QBD Books store!

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