Stage and TV for Pip Williams The Dictionary of Lost Words
12 November 2022
The Dictionary of Lost Words, the debut novel of Adelaide Hills, South Australia, based author Pip Williams, which I happen to be reading at the moment, is to be the subject of not one, but two separate adaptations.
A stage production, directed by Jessica Arthur, a collaboration between the State Theatre Company of South Australia and the Sydney Theatre Company, is set to open in September 2023, in Adelaide. The show then moves to Sydney, where it opens in late October 2023.
And then this week Australian television producers Lisa Scott and Rebecca Summerton announced they had acquired the TV rights to the book, and were planning a six to eight part series. At this stage it remains unknown when the show will go to air.
Set with the publishing of the first Oxford Dictionary as a backdrop, The Dictionary of Lost Words, published in March 2020 by Affirm Press, recounts the story of Esme, the daughter of one of the lexicographers working on production of the dictionary:
Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word bondmaid flutter to the floor unclaimed. Esme seizes the word and hides it in an old wooden trunk 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. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.