Review: ‘One Hundred Names’ by Cecelia Ahern

Regular readers will know I’m a massive Cecelia Ahern fan, I love how the everyday and ordinary becomes pure magic in her hands. ‘One Hundred Names’ has been sat gathering shameful amounts of dust on my shelf, so blowing away the cobwebs I picked it up ready to be thrilled.

‘One Hundred Names’ is the story of Kitty Logan, a journalist who’s made a mistake: a big one at that. While her friend and mentor lies dying, she’s entrusted with the story of her career to salvage her reputation and her writing soul – and thus begins a journey of finding what matters amongst the rubble we build our lives in.

I’ll be honest, Kitty is not my favourite female lead ever, but this is undoubtedly deliberate: her journalism destroys a life and she has to learn her lessons, including that she might not be the nice person she thought she was. So she’s true, if not always likeable, and she grows on you as the story develops and she realises vicious journalism isn’t who she is.

The stories of the hundred names is in intriguing: what connects one hundred seemingly obscure people together? I won’t spoil the link, but it’s a decent payoff for your wonderings – predictable in some ways, but that’s what makes it heartwarming. It’s a weird feeling: not meeting all one hundred seems both logical and mildly disappointing, but it would have been impractical to meet all one hundred without creating a Game of Thrones style saga!

And the trick is this: enough stories are picked to validate the links, pour the right amount of depth into each storyline, and allow your investment in the people making the headlines. My favourite had to be Birdie – an obvious choice but a good one nonetheless, a story against adversity that doesn’t go dramatically overboard, but shows how simple goals such as living life can be the most challenging of all.

A criticism? Some of the plots tied up a little too nicely, mostly where couples were concerned: useful that the lady our man Archie has been watching for a year returns his affections, that Kitty’s best friend Steve has a sudden revelation about their whole friendship just as she does, that Birdie’s carer and her grandson very (very very!) quickly hit it off…you have to overlook the convenient couplings for a little while, but this doesn’t overshadow the story as a whole which is key.

Kitty’s final triumph in the offices of etcetera magazine is a wonder: it’s like seeing a butterfly emerge from its cocoon (our lovely Ambrose from the one Hundred Names can surely identify), and we finally get to see what the cocoon was hiding all along in all its colourful glory. It’s lovely, melting tummy kind of reading, and that’s what Cecelia Ahern is all about.

So add your name to the hundreds on the list who have enjoyed the tale of Kitty, her redemption and in understanding that life is the story before all else – you won’t regret the read!

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Review: ‘The Marble Collector’ by Cecelia Ahern

I am an avid Cecelia Ahern fan and she has yet to disappointment, and ‘The Marble Collector’ is no exception.

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The bittersweet story of a girl finding her father amid the ashes of his stroke and memory loss, ‘The Marble Collector’ is both sad and beautiful in equal measures. Fergus Boggs loses his memory following his stroke, but the chance finding of his marble collection begins his awakening; enter his daughter, Sabrina, who learns her dad was never who she thought he was and, in equal measure, she sees how much she’s misjudged herself throughout her life.

Fergus’ story is haunting; do we ever really get to be ourselves when there are so many expectations around us? It’s something we all face and all have a struggle with at one point or another, and Ahern’s journey for Fergus reminds us of how precious it is to find people we can be our true selves to.

Likewise, Sabrina’s story is subtle: as a mid-life/existential crisis plot, it had the potential to be cloying, but it’s handled deftly and lingers on the right things in the right places in order to evoke sympathy and maintain our curiosity as Sabrina’s amateur investigations continue. Case in point (warning: spoiler alert), when it’s revealed that Sabrina’s husband had an affair, we could have focused on the pain, the betrayal, the revulsion, but that wasn’t how the story was being told; it was sad, yes, but it was a journey from the dark to the light and not dwelling on the dark kept this momentum going. It’s part of Ahern’s writing magic and why I keep going back for more.

What I really loved about this story was that things so complicated came from these tiny little marbles: family tragedy, spousal divisions, loss, love, and everything else in-between – all from these tiny glass orbs. The everyday, once again, becomes magical under Ahern’s touch, reminding us of little beauties and triumphs in the everyday world. It’s a book I highly recommend if you want a reminder of this and a touching journey to understanding who we are.

Review: “Lyredbird” by Cecelia Ahern

I love Cecelia Ahern, I think she’s a beautiful author who makes the normal extraordinary and reminds us to appreciate the everyday without preaching morality or life lessons. In short, I have yet to see her do wrong, and ‘Lyrebird’ keeps that record intact.

The tale of Laura Button, a girl who mimics like a lyrebird without thinking after 26 years of living in relative isolation, Ahern writes about an unknown talent that inadvertently shows people who they are, making them understand the bad to come through to the good.

There are bits, I admit, which made me have temporary (and then cured) doubts: I have never been a fan of writing in present tense for example – ironically, it makes me tense because it just feels a bit unnatural when telling a story. Likewise, the introduction of talent show StarrQuest after being surrounded by natural innocence and beauty felt a bit jarring, but it was one of those plot lines you had to give a chance to, because it all made sense as part of the journey of Laura as a lyrebird. She had to be found, spread her wings, fall and rise again, and without this it wouldn’t have been so captivating and heartwarming. So the niggles died with the final rise of the lyrebird, and rightfully so.

With worries put aside, it turned into a narrative where you felt Laura’s development as your own because of how skilfully Ahern wrote her innocent nature; without that genuineness of her innocence, it might have come across as cloying or sickly, but it was handled wonderfully to allow you to access the real nature of Laura’s transition to the actual world.

It was a shame to see Rachel tale off as her partner’s due date loomed as she had an interesting relationship with Laura, but Bo was included just enough to see her rise, fall and rise again alongside Laura to redeem herself and start anew. Solomon was interesting if a bit stereotypical in being the brooding male, but he contrasted to and opened up Laura well, allowing her to have something of a foil to develop against.

I enjoyed the hints of stories within the plot as well; Gaga and the mother’s tale of woe wasn’t overextended, the Toolin affair wasn’t dragged out, things were what they were and the future, the change was the focus; a refreshing change from overly-emotional focuses in other books.

In short, everyone should experience the lore of the lyrebird for themselves; oddly enough, it’s not just the characters who come out of this thinking about who they are and how they perceive the world, and that’s what makes Ahern truly magical.

The Naughty and Nice List

I have been very neglectful of this site recently, and for good reasons – my latest project, Literacy Stars is taking off and I am incredibly proud of it, as well as being incredibly exhausted from all the time it’s taken!

Excuses aside, my recent reading hasn’t stopped in the background, so here’s the pre-Christmas naught and nice list from my reading trawls of late…

 

Nice: 

  1. ‘The Woman in Black’ by Susan Hill – a truly harrowing book, made all the more impressive by it being a product of the 1980s yet sounding like it’s straight from the Victorian era! It’s detailed but in the best possible way – you feel every moment and, for a story where (when you reflect on it and realise) very little happens, you feel like everything has changed througho
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    The clear candidate for top of the list! 

    ut the course of this little novella.

  2. ‘Facing the Congo’ by Jeffrey Taylor – a fascinating insight into life on the Conga in former Zaire, exploring the lines between adventure and exploitation, daring and foolishness, and adding a little education along the way.
  3. ‘The Year I Met You’ by Cecelia Ahern – this only just makes it onto the nice list, but it’s a standard sweetheart of a book from Ahern, removing romantics in favour of life-changing relationships beyond the conventional. It’s that everyday magic and love Ahern specialises in, so worth a read.
  4. ‘The Taliban Cricket Club’ by Timeri Murari – this is the best of the bunch; fascinating, insightful, moving and wonderful, you don’t have to love cricket to love this haunting and beautiful story of being female in a repressive regime and the bravery required to free yourself – a bravery embodied by the glorious game itself.

Naughty: 

  1. ‘Early One Morning’ by Virginia Bailey – somewhat interesting in places but entirely predictable and overly-cliched for such a serious topic. A lot of potential that isn’t fully expanded on, which is a shame considering that Rome is a vantage point lost when considering the war in modern culture.
  2. 51rpuevkfl-_sx324_bo1204203200_‘Gorky Park’ by Martin Cruz Smith – I started off loving this dark Russian detective book, but its desperation to be the first in a series let it down, meaning the story finished in a fallen hurdle rather than a rising leap, and the pathos drooped woefully.
  3. ‘The Russian Debutante’s Handbook’ by Gary Shteyngart – what can I say? Our leading man Vladimir is a feckless pig who oscillates between naive and dangerously arrogant so frequently the book needs to be solved with nausea medication and a flow chart of events. Quirky but too much so for this reader.

Review: ‘The Book of Tomorrow’ – Cecelia Ahern

Cecelia Ahern has not disappointed me yet, and ‘The Book of Tomorrow’ is just another success to add to her extensive list.

Known best for ‘PS – I Love You’ (while we’re on that, the film is hideous compared to the book), Ahern has this uncanny ability to make you wonder at your own life by making everyday incidents – like keeping a diary – into magical events that serve to complete the story and make you question your own life. ‘The Gift’ made me want to cry, because while it certainly wasn’t happily ever after, Lou’s series of epiphanies had supernatural origins that were incredibly relevant to non-literary life.

‘The Book of Tomorrow’ begins with Tamara as the sixteen-year-old spoiled princess who finds her financially-struggling father dead on the floor next to a bottle of whisky and an empty pill bottle. With the devastation at the beginning, the novel follows the ‘PS – I Love You’ route by showing the protagonist’s journey in coping with their loss and moving on to a better and more fulfilled life as a result. Using a younger protagonist, however, allowed Ahern to sufficiently change the tone of the novel to combine grief with an insane amount of hormones swimming around Tamara’s foul-mouthed brain. Some of the obscenities Tamara came out with were cringe-worthy, but instead of causing you to abandon belief in the character, it strengthened it, as despite her obvious moral growth, Tamara still retains some of her bratty need to be extremely blunt. It would have thoroughly disappointed me if Tamara’s first reaction to Laurie had been a full acceptance of his appearance after the fire: her tears and fears both justified Wesley’s actions and maintained the character we’d been told existed before the beginning of the novel.

Rosaleen’s reveal as the big bad wolf, however, didn’t gel properly. Personally, I saw her as too bolshy with Tamara, and while I completely understand she was mentally unhinged and desperately trying to protect the fictitious life she’d created for herself, I thought she would have gone down the hysterical route as opposed to becoming more firm and angrily aggressive in her passion. Angrily aggressive, very dead, good win.

The use of the diary was sparing enough to stop the magic from becoming overused and tiring, leaving the reader craving more as opposed to being sick of having events narrated and re-narrated incessantly. I think the tantalising glimpses at the future showed its fragility and unpredictability despite the potential for life to follow a certain path.

Overall, I think Cecelia Ahern has outdone herself once more, by creating an imperfect world where the characters discoveries enable the reader to see that the here and now can be irrelevant in the face of tomorrow.