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The Bookbinder of Jericho – Pip Williams

The Bookbinder of Jericho – Pip Williams

I read The Dictionary of Lost Words, and I liked it (I was a bit disappointed with the final third), so I thought I would give this one a go. Besides, Pip Williams was the third author interviewed on the Bookshelf (along with Geraldine Brooks and Sally Colin-James) and I was keen to read all of the novels after listening to the interview.

Here’s the blurb …

A young British woman working in a book bindery gets a chance to pursue knowledge and love when World War I upends her life in this new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the Reese’s Book Club pick The Dictionary of Lost Words.

“Williams spins an immersive and compelling tale, sweeping us back to the Oxford she painted so expertly in The Dictionary of Lost Words.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

It is 1914, and as the war draws the young men of Britain away to fight, women must keep the nation running. Two of those women are Peggy and Maude, twin sisters who live on a narrow boat in Oxford and work in the bindery at the university press.

Ambitious, intelligent Peggy has been told for most of her life that her job is to bind the books, not read them—but as she folds and gathers pages, her mind wanders to the opposite side of Walton Street, where the female students of Oxford’s Somerville College have a whole library at their fingertips. Maude, meanwhile, wants nothing more than what she has: to spend her days folding the pages of books in the company of the other bindery girls. She is extraordinary but vulnerable, and Peggy feels compelled to watch over her.

Then refugees arrive from the war-torn cities of Belgium, sending ripples through the Oxford community and the sisters’ lives. Peggy begins to see the possibility of another future where she can educate herself and use her intellect, not just her hands. But as war and illness reshape her world, her love for a Belgian soldier—and the responsibility that comes with it—threaten to hold her back.

The Bookbinder is a story about knowledge—who creates it, who can access it, and what truths get lost in the process. Much as she did in the international bestseller The Dictionary of Lost Words, Pip Williams thoughtfully explores another rarely seen slice of history through women’s eyes.

I listened to the audible version of this (narrated by Annabelle Tudor), it was very good. I liked this novel more than The Dictionary of Lost Words. It’s about reading, and self-educating and wanting more, but it is also about family (biological and the ones we make for ourselves), and feminism, and war (being part of it, being on the fringes, surviving it and thriving afterwards). There are some fabulous characters; Gwen, Maud, Bastian, and the setting is beautifully rendered. I enjoyed hearing about the bookbinding process (I have done a little myself), and Peggy’s love of reading. You could say this was a book about reading and how it can set you free.

A review

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Filed under 4, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Dictionary of Lost Words – Pip Williams

The Dictionary of Lost Words – Pip Wiliams

I bought this as part of my ‘I’m going to chemo today. so I am buying a book’ plan. The cover and the blurb reduced me.

Here’s the blurb…

In 1901, the word ‘Bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the ‘Scriptorium’, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor. Esme rescues the slip and stashes it in an old wooden case that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.

Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. While she dedicates her life to the Oxford English Dictionary, secretly, she begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Set when the women’s suffrage movement was at its height and the Great War loomed, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. It’s a delightful, lyrical and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words, and the power of language to shape the world and our experience of it

I really enjoyed the first two thirds of this novel. The setting, the talk of words were beautifully written. And then my enthusiasm waned (could be because I was having chemotherapy). I passed my copy on the my mother-in-law whose book club is reading it. 3 out of 5.

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Filed under 3, Historical Fiction