Book Notes | ‘The Dictionary of Lost Words’
“Some words are more important than others—I learned this, growing up in the Scriptorium. But it took me a long time to understand why.” Spoken by the protagonist Esme, the author sets up the main theme of The Dictionary of Lost Words.
The novel begins In the late 18th century when a young motherless girl, the fictional Esme, spends her days under the sorting table in the scriptorium or “Scrippy,” a garden shed in Oxford where her father works along with other lexicographers, all male, to review and define the thousands of words sent in by volunteer readers. After one slip of paper is discarded and comes fluttering down under the table, Esme discovers that the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) being created excludes some words determined to be unimportant.
A front-row seat
Spanning the Victorian era, the women’s suffrage movement, World War I, and beyond, this historical novel gives the reader a front-row seat for the making of the first edition of the OED, referring to actual places while weaving in real and fictional characters. The reader follows Esme as she comes of age and begins her own collection of words, consisting of ones discarded by the OED lexicographers along with words of the uneducated and poor, including many words referring to or used by women and considered to be vulgar and, thus, not fitting for the morals of the time.
The vast majority of the UMRA Book Club members liked the book, saying it was very interesting and readable. Many enjoyed learning about the process of how the OED was developed, which the author vividly details. Others commented on the integration of the English suffrage movement and it’s impact on the story line. As Esme grows up, she becomes increasingly aware of the morals of the time and their impact on women’s lives, including her own. Several readers felt the story was tedious and hard to get into.
Overall, this novel is a thought-provoking look at the development of the OED and how the morals of the time impacted what is considered important.
—Mary Jane Towle, UMRA Book Club member
'The Dictionary of Lost Words'
Fri, Oct 20 2023, 2pm
Mary Jane Towle will lead the discussion of The Dictionary of Lost Words, a debut novel by Australian writer Pip Williams, when the UMRA Book Club meets via Zoom at 2 p.m. on Friday, October 20. This book combines fact and fiction in a tale based on a true event: the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Please join us for an invigorating hike from The Monument located at the intersection of Mississippi RIver Blvd and Summit Avenue in St. Paul to Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis and back. This hike is on paved trails, approximately 5.5 miles in length, and will be at a pace suitable to the weather.
Knowing your family’s medical history is important, especially as we become more aware of the role played by genetics in many medical conditions. This presentation by UMRA member Michelle Casey will include suggestions for finding family death records—despite data challenges—based on Casey’s search for her own grandfather’s record.
Andy Whitman's Employee Benefits class will be holding an Oxford style debate on four different topics. During the debate a Board of Distinguished Professionals questions each Team, and finally comments on Team performance after the end of the debates.
Topics include tax changes; tax reducing moves required now and tax management in 2024.
It may seem like science fiction, but University of Minnesota researchers are exploring therapeutic interventions to treat aging and prevent age-related diseases. Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, leads the Medical School’s Institute on the Biology of Aging and Metabolism, and will share her work on aging—and how to slow it down—for UMRA’s Living Well Workshop on Tuesday, January 16, via Zoom.
Pat Miles, former TV news anchor and journalist, lost her husband suddenly and found the financial and legal challenges to be overwhelming during her time of grief. She wrote a book about her experience, Before All Is Said and Done, incorporating wisdom from other unexpected widows, and will share her learnings for the first UMRA Forum of the New Year.
UMRA’s first Armchair Traveler program of 2024 will take us on travels close to home and to the edges of the earth with two fabulous presenters, Carol Urness and Kate Maple.
Join UMRA members at Midland Hills Country Club in Roseville for an afternoon of comradery, food, and entertainment. After an hour of mingling and nosh, the highlight of this mid-winter event will be an hour of song and music by Twin Cities musicians Dane Stauffer and Dan Chouinard.
Prepayment of $35 per person; or $38 after Jan 5
If you are curious about insects in their astonishing variety, plan to join the UMRA Cabinets of Curiosity to tour the Insect Collection and Natural History Library in Hodson Hall.