2021 - Shortlisted
The Dictionary of Lost Words is a multi-layered and ambitious novel centred on the creation of the first Oxford English Dictionary. It tells the story of a young woman, Esme, whose father is involved with the team of lexicographers. Esme becomes increasingly aware of how words for female experience are being excluded from the project and makes it her mission to collect these words and see them recognised. A reminder of the potency of language, with its capacity to reinforce the status quo and exclude the marginalised, the novel writes women back into the history of the Oxford English Dictionary. With its imaginative literary invention and in its care for its characters, this is a strikingly original work.