The Dictionary of Lost Words

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Pip William’s debut novel. Accurate historical content with a roster of characters that will draw you into the compelling story.

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My goal is to read books that are reflective of diverse perspectives and gain empathy with the overcomers. I thought The Dictionary of Lost Words would be a good match. The book’s summary mentioned how the Oxford English Dictionary was initially edited only by men, but female contributions to the project would be championed. l looked forward to discovering how Victorian women could make their mark on the project and overcome the outright bias of an all male editorial board. Pip Williams in her debut novel delivers on this and creates an interesting story that compels you to dig a little deeper into the creation of this scholarly publication. More than once I did a little cross checking of the novel’s facts. It really did take 70 years to finish the dictionary. The Scriptorium’s bank of pigeonholed cubbies are exactly how all the quotation slips were organized. The account of the women’s suffrage movement in England was historically accurate. I appreciated some of the phrases like one character was more “town than gown”. At one point, some of the language did offend me. Mid-way, I had second thoughts about finishing it. But I’m glad I did. For me the book from the midpoint to the end was terrific. The characters won me over completely. I wanted to know how all their stories were going to work out. It’s a unique novel and a good match for literary types who love history.  The plot line following the characters through their World War I experiences stirred up a deep well of emotions. There was sadness mixed with hidden blessings at the end.

Women Writing Prose and Poetry

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I’m only half way through but sticky notes fringe the edges and yellow highlights appear throughout. I can feel my brain synapses jolt into action while pondering the thoughts recorded here. The references at the end of each chapter are rich in suggestions for future reading. I’ve already ordered one book and complied a TBR list of four more. This is a must read for anyone with an interest in the outdoors and our place in nature.

The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood 

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, I’m making it a point to read literature that shines a light on women who persevered. When I saw, The Engineer’s Wife, I knew I had to read it right away. Emily Warren Roebling’s story is remarkable. I knew just bits and pieces of her involvement with the Brooklyn Bridge. She persevered despite many obstacles. I found the bridge building information interesting. It was a realistic retelling of all the joys and tragedies involved in the project. The discussion around women’s suffrage and other women’s issues was eye opening. The hindrances 19th century women had to face are mind-boggling. The author introduces us to a female inventor who had to use a man’s name just to get attention for her product. Emily’s decision to switch to Bloomers instead of corsets and full length gowns is another example of her innovative behavior. After the bridge’s completion, the author mentions Emily’s desire to attend law school. A goal she accomplished later in life.

While most of the book is true to the historical record, I wasn’t comfortable with the liberties the author took with Emily’s relationship with P.T. Barnum. In her notes, the author explains that this part of the story was based on reasonable speculation. With this plot line, I would have appreciated more authenticity and less fabrication. Barnum is such a colorful character with flair and wit.

The story moved at a good pace for me. I also appreciated the related plot lines such as her brother’s Civil War experience, Caisson disease and how best to minimize the effects, other bridge projects, and the tragic consequences caused by an unscrupulous contractor who used an inferior product for greater profits.

I would recommend this book with enthusiasm to fans of historical fiction. I received a complimentary copy of the ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.  The release for this book is April 7, 2020. #TheEngineer’sWife #NetGalley