The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams is a captivating historical fiction novel that explores the power of language, the role of women, and the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. This thought-provoking book raises many interesting questions, making it an excellent choice for book club discussions. In this article, we will delve into some compelling book club questions and also share five unique facts about The Dictionary of Lost Words.
Book Club Questions:
1. The protagonist, Esme, grows up surrounded by words in the Scriptorium. How does this environment shape her perception of language and her role in society?
2. The novel portrays the gender biases and inequality of the early 20th century. How does Esme challenge societal expectations and norms? Discuss the significance of her journey towards independence.
3. Throughout the book, Esme discovers words that are excluded from the dictionary due to their “unsuitability.” What does this reveal about the power dynamics within the world of language and who gets to decide what is included or excluded?
4. Esme’s relationship with Lizzie, a servant, is central to the story. How does this relationship challenge the class divide and highlight the importance of human connection?
5. The novel explores the theme of loss, not only through the lost words but also through personal losses that Esme experiences. How does she navigate grief and find solace in language?
6. The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary is a significant backdrop of the novel. Discuss the impact this monumental project had on society, language, and the individuals involved.
7. Esme’s father is a lexicographer working on the OED. How does his influence shape her understanding of words and her relationship with language?
8. The Suffragette movement plays a crucial role in the story. How does Williams intertwine the themes of language and women’s rights? Discuss the parallels between the fight for women’s suffrage and the fight for inclusion of words in the dictionary.
9. The Dictionary of Lost Words is filled with strong female characters. How do these characters challenge societal expectations and contribute to the feminist narrative of the story?
10. The novel portrays the power of storytelling and the oral tradition. How does this influence Esme’s perception of language and her understanding of the world around her?
Five Unique Facts about The Dictionary of Lost Words:
1. The author, Pip Williams, was inspired to write the book after learning about the real-life female volunteers who worked on the Oxford English Dictionary but were often overlooked in history.
2. The novel is set during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time of tremendous social change, including the suffrage movement and the First World War.
3. The Dictionary of Lost Words explores the creation of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, which took over seventy years to complete and included the contributions of numerous volunteers.
4. Williams meticulously researched the lost words featured in the book, many of which were excluded from the OED for reasons such as regional bias and perceived vulgarity.
5. The story of Esme, the protagonist, is a fictional account that blends historical events with a coming-of-age narrative, providing readers with a unique perspective on the power of language and the challenges faced by women during that era.
1. Is The Dictionary of Lost Words based on a true story?
No, the story is a work of fiction, but it is inspired by real-life events and the forgotten women who contributed to the Oxford English Dictionary.
2. How does the book explore gender inequality?
The novel highlights the societal biases against women and their limited roles during the early 20th century. Esme’s journey challenges these norms and sheds light on the struggles faced by women at that time.
3. Can you provide examples of lost words featured in the book?
Some examples include “bondmaid,” “elflock,” and “gypsy.” These words were excluded from the OED due to various reasons, often reflecting bias and cultural norms of the time.
4. Does the novel have a strong feminist message?
Yes, The Dictionary of Lost Words celebrates the power of women’s voices and their fight for equality. It portrays the importance of language in shaping society and challenges the gender biases prevalent during that era.
5. How historically accurate is the portrayal of the Oxford English Dictionary’s creation?
While the story is fictional, the author conducted extensive research to provide an authentic backdrop for the novel. Many aspects of the OED’s creation, such as the volunteer contributions, are historically accurate.
6. What other themes are explored in the book?
In addition to language and gender inequality, the novel touches on themes of loss, grief, class divide, friendship, and the power of storytelling.
7. Is The Dictionary of Lost Words suitable for all ages?
The book contains mature themes and historical context, making it more suitable for adult readers or young adult readers interested in historical fiction.
8. Does the book have a sequel?
No, The Dictionary of Lost Words is a standalone novel.
9. Are there any adaptations of the book?
As of now, there are no announced adaptations of The Dictionary of Lost Words.
10. How significant is the Suffragette movement in the story?
The Suffragette movement serves as a backdrop and plays a crucial role in the narrative, highlighting the fight for women’s rights and the parallels between language and equality.
11. Is the story fast-paced or more character-driven?
The novel is primarily character-driven, focusing on Esme’s personal journey and her relationship with language, rather than being fast-paced with constant action.
12. Does the book delve into the historical context of the time period?
Yes, The Dictionary of Lost Words provides readers with a vivid portrayal of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, exploring social change, women’s rights movements, and the impact of the First World War.
13. How does the novel explore the power of language?
The book emphasizes the ways in which language shapes society, reflecting the biases and prejudices of its time. It also highlights the importance of including diverse voices and words in preserving the richness of language.