What to Read in 2022

Reese’s Book Club continues to pick some great books. The May book, The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams got me thinking about how far women have come. There have been hardships and struggles along the way to gain freedoms and rights. Things have changed and then again, they haven’t changed at all. 

Description from Kobo.com

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.

My Take:

This book reminds me that my life as a woman is pretty cushy. The women who came before me fought for rights that I take for granted. The Dictionary of Lost Words showed me how much ground has been gained by women and how much there still is left to conquer. That’s a topic for another conversation, but I wanted to be upfront about the fact that this book sparked something in me. It wasn’t just good entertainment. It is a message for women to work hard to keep what rights and freedoms we have. 

Back to the book: 

Esme started out in a world of men, her mother having died when she was young. Raised by her father, Esme’s female influences came from a lower social class, so she was forced to figure things out on her own. The book takes us from Esme’s early years all the way to her adult life and highlights the travesties of being female. 

Education for girls was focused on preparing them to be good wives and mothers, regardless of their intellect and interest. Careers for women were limited as well. Despite the fact that Esme was as good of a Lexicographer, if not better, as some of the men at her sorting table, she didn’t receive the respect or accolades or pay that they did. Wartime affected Esme’s path as well. The constant losses impacted Esme personally, professionally and emotionally.

I’ve said it before. I’m not a historical fiction person. But this was a gripping novel about how one woman dedicated her life to making sure that the things women said, were heard. This book would be good for girls in high school to read as well. It deals with some serious topics that are relevant today. 

Up next month is Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen. If there is a book you think I should read, drop me an email at carole@carolewolfe.com. 

Until next time…

Photo by Vadymvdrobot from Deposit Photos.