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Pip Williams (1)

Teoksen The Dictionary of Lost Words tekijä

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"This book began with two simple questions: Do words mean different things to men and women: And if they do, is it possible that we have lost something in the process of defining them?"

Having read "The Professor and the Madman" by Simon Winchester and " Babel by R.F. Kuang, I was intrigued by the premise of this book: An attempt to catalog words of those underrepresented in history! Instead of being an enjoyable read, it ultimately became a chore. I sometimes wanted to throw the book against the wall in frustration.

Unfortunately, I was not too fond of the main character, Esme. She is a flat character- more of a caricature than a character. Possibly she is the author's idea of an early protofeminist. She came off as a whiny, spoiled drama queen, mainly because her actions were not given any explanation. She doesn't seem to have an interior life. She seems melancholy and depressed...why? Why does she sit on the sidelines of the action in the book? Why does she collect the "lost words" only to lock them in a box? Her husband has them published for her. She doesn't seem to do anything but pout about everything that happens to her. Another example: Unwanted pregnancy- she didn't know she was pregnant. Her maid told her she was. She was clueless.
And why is she so delighted to collect not just mundane words, but "foul" words? Is that her mark of "independence"?
Another thing that takes away from the book- important events happen outside the story. For instance, she is sent away to school but has a terrible experience. We are never told why, just that she did not want to go back. Her relationship with her first lover is only mentioned in passing. She observes the suffrage movement from afar, never really getting involved. Even her death is told to us by another character writing to Esme's long-lost daughter.
More direct action and a rounder, more dynamic character would have made this story more engaging.
… (lisätietoja)
 
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Chrissylou62 | 115 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Apr 11, 2024 |
This is another well-researched feminist historical fiction by English Australian author Pip Williams. It is a sequel to, or a companion volume to The Dictionary of Lost Words, set in Oxford during WW1.

Peggy and her twin sister Maude work as bindery girls at the Oxford University Press and live aboard a ramshackle canal boat Calliope, as full of books as a floating library. Peggy loves reading and dreams of attending University, although this seems an impossibility for a girl, particularly one brought up very much as “town” rather than “gown.” Maude is never given a diagnosis in the book, but possibly has some form of autism. She loves origami and struggles to express herself other than repeating fragments she has heard. The war brings many changes and new people into their lives including the very damaged Belgian refugee Lotte, the wounded Bastiaan and the high society Gwen. There are also letters from the front, including from their feisty, suffragette godmother-figure Tilda.

The book gives insight into the Belgian crisis during WWI, when over 200,000 Belgians sought refuge in Britain, the influenza pandemic, and the ins and outs of how to bind a book (probably far too much detail on the latter).

I loved the descriptions of the relationship between Maude and Peggy, and its changing dynamic. This book told a good story, although it was very slow moving in parts and tending to get bogged down in minutiae. It was good, but not as stunning as the reviews make out, and not as impacting as The Dictionary of Lost Words.
… (lisätietoja)
 
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mimbza | 29 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Apr 10, 2024 |
Research have proven, over and over again, that while culture shapes language, language also shapes culture. Dominant populations may not be able to gatekeep the vocabulary that is employed by marginalized populations (women, the poor), but they do get to gatekeep which words end up officially acknowledged in dictionaries, thus shaping that society's acknowledged reality.

This is the understanding that gradually dawns on the protagonist of the novel, Esme, who finds employment in the workshop/scriptorium where the Oxford English Dictionary is being composed. As her interest converges on specific categories of words most likely to be excluded - slang, vulgar language, language related to female experiences/desires - her own life experiences conspire to underscore the importance and relevancy of these words.

Other themes: how dictionaries fail to acknowledge how the connotations of words (ex: sisters, sufferage, f---) evolve over time; and language's role in defining history (a la "history is written by the victors").

Reviews and blurbs suggest that this novel is some sort of daring celebration of feminism. I'm not sure there's anything particularly daring here. The book feels fairly authentic in its incorporation of women representing both ends of the spectrum of female experience, from exploited prostitutes to well-respected female scholars. If anything, the book draws attention to the gradual empowerment of women that has occurred over time, their transition from the maidens/scolds/dollymops of the past (captured in the quotes that are used to source the dictionary) to women unafraid to demand their rights and claim their sexuality. One emerges with the impression that while the English Oxford Dictionary may be flawed, and females may continue to experience sexism, neither of these are as excessive as they might be.

One ding: while it's cool that this story is based on actual events, this does have the inevitable impact of limiting the author's flexibility and creativity. The characters and events that are based on reality are definitely not as dramatic or interesting as the fictionalized bits. Don't get me wrong: there's enough plot/character development to keep things interesting, but this is mostly a book about ideas rather than people - an exploration of the power of vocabulary to not just define but shape reality.
… (lisätietoja)
 
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Dorritt | 115 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Feb 22, 2024 |
As much as I enjoyed this novel as a work of fiction, I enjoyed the shorter Author’s Note equally, beginning with the first paragraph, which poses two questions: “Do words mean different things to men and women? And if they do, is it possible that we have lost something in the process of defining them?” Instinctively, my answer is yes, although Ms. Williams goes beyond this and shows some of the words omitted are clearly class based, not just gender based. This historical fiction is based on the actual events of the compiling of the first Oxford English Dictionary (my favorite book!), which was accomplished first in pieces, beginning in the Victorian era and ending in the period between the two World Wars, under the direction of primary editor Dr. James Murray, who is a prominent figure in this novel. The protagonist, Esme Nicholls, is the motherless child of one of the lexicographers working with Dr. Murray. The story begins in 1887, when Esme is a small girl who sits under the sorting table where her father and the other philologists works, sorting through submissions from other philologists and lexicographers, nearly thirty years into the work on the first edition, which was published in volumes by letter or group of letters until it was completed in 1928 – and the second edition was begun. But Esme learns that not all words that are in use are included in the dictionary, and she begins collecting words that are left out and eventually complied into a printed book as an engagement present, in lieu of a ring, from the man she eventually marries in her 30s. As Ms. Williams observes in the prologue: Some words are more important than others . . . . But it took me a long time to understand why.” And the why is the lack of voice of those who also used words were but were not consulted because they were deemed by the males who controlled the dictionary to be unimportant.… (lisätietoja)
 
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bschweiger | 115 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Feb 4, 2024 |

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Teokset
4
Jäseniä
3,224
Suosituimmuussija
#7,938
Arvio (tähdet)
4.0
Kirja-arvosteluja
146
ISBN:t
76
Kielet
9

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