Amidst all the horror of the daily news comes some small pleasures. The first is a book, The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams which is only 99p in the Kindle store at the moment. I sat and read and was engrossed by it. It’s quite an insular novel, set in the shed that was used by the compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary. Esme began her remembered life sitting under the table that was used by the men sorting and defining the words, one being her father. She progresses over decades to become an editor. Sounds boring? No, it may be a book which has a lasting and profound impact on me. Here is my review.
I had no idea what this book would be about until it landed on my Kindle. It didn’t hook me immediately but as I read on, there was so much to admire. That the story takes place mostly in a shed and a kitchen is testament to the author’s skill in weaving a story about life for a woman in Edwardian Oxford. A woman who has grown up with words and their meaning who seeks in her small way to imprint her own ideas and values on the huge endeavour which is the Oxford English Dictionary. When the world of suffragettes and WWI intrude, they do in ways that will impact hugely on Esme. It’s a book about misogyny and the casual way that women were dismissed. It’s a book about the meaning of language and the way words are interpreted differently by men and women. It’s a book about a male definition of a word denigrates sexual experiences, blaming and impugning women and holding their behaviour to a wholly different value system. It’s the story of Bondmaids, of Esme who becomes a bondmaid to the dictionary, of Lizzie, her friend and a servant who educates Esme in how it is to be a woman and how it is to serve others at the expense of life for herself. It’s also a book about the meaning of love. This book will live with me.
The second pleasure was a trip to the theatre to watch a production by Nederlands Dans Theater. Just being in a theatre again was uplifting from the moment we walked into the foyer. Normality, noise, movement, people – everything we have missed for two years. We had seats in the second row of the stalls – up close and personal and speaking for myself, I was thrilled by the performance. What was so interesting was that the performers were so ethnically diverse, from several countries and although all young, all heights, tiny to tall. They were there because of talent and skill.
The sun is shining today and the garden calls but the paperback of The Bluebird Brooch is on track for an April publication.