Academy Award-winning actor and producer Reese Witherspoon founded her book club in 2017 to champion books she loves that feature a woman at the centre of the story. The power of Reese’s spotlight is renowned for taking already popular books to a whole new level of success, often catapulting them to the top of bestseller lists and seeing tens or even hundreds of thousands of copies sold. Previous Book Club picks include Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and Delia Owens’ When the Crawdads Sing which has recently been adapted into a film starring Daisy Edgar-Jones, to be released in July.
Since it was first published in Australia in March 2020, The Dictionary of Lost Words has taken the world by storm, selling over 200,000 copies in Australia and New Zealand alone. Rights have been sold to 17 territories, including the UK, the USA, Italy, South Korea, Brazil and Russia.
This global success is all the more special for debut novelist Pip Williams, whose publicity and events plans had to pivot to digital when the pandemic saw everything grind to a halt in March 2020.
Unlike many big-name authors, Pip doesn’t keep any social media accounts. She has spent the last two years bunkered down in Adelaide with hardly any direct connection to her hundreds of thousands of fans in Australia and around the world, who have found solace and joy in The Dictionary of Lost Words.
The novel is set during the creation of the first Oxford English Dictionary more than a century ago, when the suffragette movement was blossoming, and the Great War loomed. Based on true events, it tells the story of Esme, a young girl who took it upon herself to preserve ‘women’s words’ that were being neglected or discarded by the male lexicographers shaping the English language. 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. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.
Witherspoon also has an eye for stories that are destined for the screen and is quick to buy rights through her production company, Hello Sunshine, which is responsible for the critically acclaimed TV adaptations of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, among others.
Screen rights are still available for The Dictionary of Lost Words – for now.