February 19, 2021, by UoN School of English
Rethinking the World with Chick Lit
This Christmas, I was gifted Cecelia Ahern’s One Hundred Names from a family member – with their flawed logic being that if I like the Bridget Jones movies, then romance fiction should be right up my street. But when I accidentally packed it to bring back to Uni alongside all my other books, giving it a read seemed like the perfect way to avoid essay writing.
And I was right: while definitely not my usual genre, One Hundred Names was enticing from the start, but it had no right to be so. The main character, Kitty, was overwhelmingly pathetic and self-pitying after being ostracised for falsely accusing a man on live television of sexual assaulting two young girls, and the other characters weren’t much better. With a focus on normal people and their mundane lives, it’s initially hard to see what is appealing about this novel.
Despite all this, the novel’s opening themes struck me. With what feels like an eternity of news solely consisting of death and tragedy, I am not alone in feeling somewhat desensitised to the suffering that is happening on a global scale as I write this review. However, One Hundred Names specifically calls out this type of journalism: what is a story without heart? Kitty’s mentor Constance teaches her the importance of individual expressions and the idea that every story is worth telling from every person’s perspective. With the death of Constance coming soon after, Kitty vows to carry out her dying wish – to write a story about a hundred unconnected, ordinary individuals. Her disappointment that each person she interviews is sadly normal and boring is underpinned by Ahern giving each of them their own brief narrative perspective.
One Hundred Names is a novel about the human connections and acts of kindness between strangers – after living alone for the last month due to lockdown, this novel was a beautiful and much needed reminder of the goodness of people coming together. Although chick lit and romance has never been on my radar before now, Cecelia Ahern has opened my eyes to a new guilty pleasure.
Wesley Devoe is an English student at the University of Nottingham.
Image credit: Aaron Burden
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