First published in October 2012.
One Hundred Names is the most recent novel from popular author Cecelia Ahern, whose writing has been translated into forty languages and has been adapted for both stage and screen.
Her newest offering centres on Irish journalist Kitty Logan. Kitty has been reporting for a television news programme but has been suspended pending libel charges: ‘I’m not a TV star, I’m an idiot who made a fool of herself on TV. There’s a distinct difference’. Her crime, as outlined by another of the book’s characters, is accusing ‘a well-respected PE teacher, who is married, with a young family, of sexually abusing two students and fathering a child. On television. In front of the entire country. And you were wrong’.
As if this wasn’t enough for Kitty to contend with, Constance, a woman who has been highly influential in her life, faces losing her own in an unrelenting battle with terminal cancer. Constance, describes the book’s third person narrator, ‘was nicknamed The Graveyard. Any secret, any piece of confidential information, personal or otherwise, that went in never, ever came back out… She was solid, permanent and steady, stoic but oddly comforting’. We are launched straight into the relationship between the two women. Despite this, the novel does not really grab the reader’s attention at its beginning. Whilst the situation Kitty and Constance are in is rather a sad one, it is rendered almost mundane as the scene at the outset continues.
The main thread of the story comes a considerable chunk of the way through and is contained within a ‘simple brown manila envelope’ found in Constance’s desk. It contains a list of names, all of which appear to have been chosen at random: ‘There was no summary, synopsis or anything to explain who these people were or what the story was’. The rest of the story revolves around Kitty trying her best to identify these individuals and how they could possibly be related to one another, taking it upon herself to meet each one of them in turn. She follows various dead ends and goes on wild goose chases before any kind of result is happened upon.
Ahern’s writing throughout One Hundred Names is relatively informative with regard to the movements of the characters themselves and the story’s main events, but there is no real beauty within it. The descriptions are few and far between which is a real shame, and the lack of such sentences does detract a little from the novel.
The bare bones of One Hundred Names provide an interesting and thought-provoking idea, but it is one which has not been pulled off perhaps as well as it could have been. It feels a little repetitive at times and is not as sensitively wrought as one might expect a novel which does not just touch upon the subject of cancer to be.