What’s in a Name?: Book Review

Shakespeare said it so well, didn’t he? Or did he?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Even as a sixteen-year-old studying ‘Romeo and Juliet’ I had quibbles with this assertion. Although I understood the particular references for this play, I felt, and still do, that our given names carry a certain ponderance. With our names we have a responsibility to our ancestors, to ourselves. Behind each there is a story.

With these thoughts swirling in my mind, I approached Sally Cronin’s book with deep interest. I couldn’t wait to read it. In these fictional short stories she explores the lives of twenty named individuals. This first volume which I’m reviewing here included names from ‘A’ to ‘J’. I was enthralled by the concept of the book, the names in alphabetical order, male and female.

It’s been a while since I read a book of short stories and often I find that my brain needs to change gear, to adapt to the different mode of storytelling.

With ‘What’s in a Name?’ I did not need to make any such adjustments. I slipped seamlessly into the book and once I started I couldn’t stop! Each separate story pulling me into the next.

Each is centred around one person. This is all the stories have in common. The themes vary from gentle reunions, relationships which have gone awry whether in friendships, marriage, siblings or between parent and child, from war to a violent abusive marriage. The versatility of subject matter is astonishing.

Equally wide-ranging are the various time eras, often spanning thirty or more years seamlessly within the stories. In one the gap is from the very beginning of humans to modern-day as early man Brynyar is reflected later in the story in modern-day ‘Brian’.

Throughout, Sally captures the reader’s attention from the very first sentence, immediately transporting the reader to the setting. I found myself immersed, the tiniest of detail settling me into the story. Furthermore, and I’m not sure how she does it, Sally sketches such an intimate picture of the characters I felt they were my friends, neighbours. I fell for them, some I adored, a couple rightly angered me and I cheered as one was arrested. The stories never felt rushed, the writing flowing with ease and complete on their own. More than a few times however I longed to read more about their lives, to stay with the characters longer and I could easily imagine a novel from some of them.

Throughout, Sally writes in the third person but at no stage does this create a sense of distance, rather the close portrayals of every day people come powerfully across. Effortlessly she explores people in all stages of life. A few stories feature children and ‘Grace’ had me tear-eyed as the five-year-old girl struggled with loneliness in the orphanage once her best friend was adopted. Could Father Christmas make all the difference?

All the endings are wonderfully surprising, with delightfully unexpected twists. Some were brilliantly audacious, where else would one find an assassin featuring alongside stories including a ballerina and a tortoise? Some stories left me chuckling, others were heartbreakingly sad about loss, and others about fateful revenge.

‘What’s in a Name?’ is a highly rewarding and engaging read which I finished over two afternoons. It’s a book I highly recommend and I’m sure you will come away answering the question in the title of the book with a resounding ‘Everything is in a Name!”

Although I was sad to finish this first volume, I’m looking forward to reading Volume 2 of ‘What’s in a Name?’ which is already on my Kindle!

Rating:        5 out of 5 stars

Available:    Amazon US  $ 3.79 (Kindle) Amazon UK £2.95 (Kindle)

Publisher: Moyhill Publishing

As well as a wonderful writer in her own right many of you will know about the superb work Sally carries out in promoting books for authors, helping in marketing via her blog, Smorgasbord Blog Magazine, and social media. She has become an indispensable and good friend of authors here on WordPress. What is probably less known is how she found herself here. Learn more on her about page here.

Contact details for Sally Cronin:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.cronin
LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ie/cronin1423/

153 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?: Book Review

  1. Pingback: 2019 GOODREADS CHALLENGE – Annika Perry's Writing Blog

  2. Pingback: Erica or Erika? Which Name Should I Keep? – Behind the Scenery

  3. I read Sally’s first WHAT’S IN A NAME? volume and loved it so much I immediately downloaded the second one. But I don’t know if I could describe as well as you do why I liked both of these volume so much. Sally definitely shows her characters by their names and how it influences them in each short story within each volume. They are two fabulous books of short stories and so well written and you bring all that to the forefront with your review, Annika. 🙏❤️

    1. Pam, you could definitely capture the books just as well … and you do just that in your wonderful comment here! I too downloaded the second volume as soon as I’d finished the first … and I love her exploration of how names influence the actions and emotions of the characters. It certainly leaves the reader pondering the history and impact of their own name!😀 Heartfelt thanks for your kind and generous words, Pam … also a joy to chat about books!📖❤️

        1. Pam, a post of yours I haven’t read!? How is that possible!?😀 I can’t wait to read this one and heading over soon.

          Funnily enough, whilst reading the book I did consider one about my name, the many names I’m known by, my frustration about how often my name is misspelt/mispronounced! It’s a post I may very well write and thank you so much for the suggestion.😀 Funnily enough, a blogger new to me has written just such a post and it is up today. Her name is Erica/Erika and it can be found here. https://behindthesceneryphoto.com/2019/11/07/erica-or-erika-which-name-should-i-keep/

          1. Hi Annika, I just now saw your kind mention about my story in your comments. I am still learning how my blog site works with extra information in my Settings. I went back to the comments in your post because Sally had left a response on my site. Constantly learning something around here. Thank you, again! 🙂

  4. Hi Annika, I just completed a draft last week of a specific story about my name when our blogs connected this week. I clicked on your most recent story and goosebumps appeared. I don’t understand how the Universe works, yet I try to pay attention. I agree with you how behind every name is a story.

    I appreciate your review on this book. The words rewarding and engaging definitely make me want to read this book.

    I am glad our paths crossed and I look forward to reading more:) Erica

    1. Erica, life is so weird! I have goosebumps reading your comment but at the same time, I’m not surprised. It is eerie the number of times this has happened here on WordPress! It’s lovely to ‘meet’ you here. I am most intrigued about your story. I noticed straight away your lovely gravatar image but also the two spellings of your name. Will you post the story or submit it somewhere. Let me know when I can read it! 😀 So glad you enjoyed this review and a book devoted to names and the stories behind them!

      Look forward to reading your blog posts and chatting away more! 😀

      1. Hi again, Annika, Yvette (Priorhouse blog) commented on a similar coincidence/synchronicity this past month. Like you say, “it is eerie the number of times this has happened.” I look forward to staying connected.🙂

  5. Pingback: Annika Perry reviews Sally Cronin’s ‘What’s in a Name?’ | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

  6. I’m so glad I saw this, Annika. As you know, I also enjoy short fiction (like yours!) and this collection sounds like something I would really like. It reminds me a bit of my father’s collection. Thanks for sharing this and congratulations, Sally!

    1. Barbara, I recall your father’s book well and thought of it whilst reading Sally’s collection. There are definitely many similarities and I’m sure you would very much enjoy ‘What’s in a Name?’ I’ve loved reading and reviewing the book … and always fun to chat about books here on WP.

      Hope you’re doing okay, Barbara x

  7. What a wonderful review Annika. A fabulous concept and it sounds like Sally has written such a huge dazzling array of characters and storylines. You definitely make me want to go and read it. Thank you and congrats to Sally.

    1. Thank you so much, Miriam … you are right about the dazzling array of characters and storylines. This morning at breakfast I ended up telling my husband some of them and he was caught up by the tales! A great read and I’m inspired to try something simiilar for myself just for fun!😀

    1. Liz, it definitely is … I can’t wait to read Volume 2. On this weekend of rain and gales, curling up on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate and the second instalment of names sounds perfect!😀

  8. Thank you for the introduction to Sally Cronin! I just finished reading Anne Fitzgerald in Starbucks over coffee – have tears in my eyes. Beautiful written with profound insights that remind us that love will prevail. Many hugs coming your way…

    1. Rebecca, so glad to introduce Sally Cronin and her work to you … she is indefatigable when it comes to helping authors and writing her own books! Wow! I can’t believe you’re reading this book already.

      Anne is such a moving story and as you say, reminds us that love will prevail. l was tear-eyed by the ending of reconciliation.

      Wishing you a magical weekend! hugs xx

  9. It’s difficult to resist the books you review, because you do it so well. 🙂 Well, I’ve been following Sally’s blog for a while now, and continue to gain brilliant insights about writing and publishing. I’m also amazed by all that she does in support of other writers. So, I’m happy to hear about her new book and I’ve added it to my ever-growing TBR. Thanks Annika for these wonderful reviews…xx

    1. Ahh … Khaya, I’m smiling at your lovely comment!😀 I know what you mean about the ever-burgeoning TBR – but I wouldn’t be without it! When I get a chance to dip in, I’m often in for a treat! Happy to help your list of books to read to grow even bigger!😀

      Yes, Sally’s energy and stamina with her support for authors are fantastic – a stalwart for all us indie writers! Happy Reading & Writing! xx

  10. As always, Annika, your reviews are spellbinding. You capture the essence of this book so well that I’m intrigued by the premise of discovering the power or perhaps the trance of one’s name. Sally Cronin’s book sounds like an enchanting immersive experience. I love short stories because you can read them in the bits and pieces of the day. Congrats, Sally, on a wonderful compilation.

    1. Sharon, warmest thanks for your wonderful thoughts on this review and book. Names are so important and yet some people are quite casual with their own or others. I have to laugh (or otherwise I’d cry/sream!) when others tell me how to pronounce and spell my name! 😀 The book was incredibly immersive and as you say, short story collections are a joy to dip in and out of … I have a few more such books on my kindle!

  11. What a lovely review, Annika. You covered everything I would ask about a book by this title. We writers know that the name can make–or unmake–a character. I love the idea of the collection of stories.

    1. Exactly, Jacqui! 😀 Names in fiction books are key, I feel … and imagine my joy with a book that lifts this premise to another level! Sally nailed it with each and every story! So glad you enjoyed the review, Jacqui and a compliment indeed from you as such a voracious reader and diligent reviewer!😀

  12. kevin cooper

    Fabulous review, Annika. I’ve read several of Sally’s works but not this one… Yet. Kudos on the new book, Sally! 🙂

    1. Kevin, I must admit I’ve read a couple of her books much earlier and loved them. However, I’m hopeless at times at reviewing! Love her writing style and stories and so glad to share about this one here! One more for you to read sometime! 😀

    1. Thank you, Natalie! It’s a joy to share this wonderful collection of stories and to give a mention to Sally and all her support to us here. Hopefully, it might bring some new writers to her site as well! 😀

  13. A fabulous review, Annika. You are a master at capturing the essence of a book and synthesizing the reading experience. I too enjoyed the variety of tales in this collection and in the second book too. Sally is a wonderful story-teller and always good with the twists or little reveals at the end. I’m certain she’s delighted with your awesome review. And Happy Halloween!

    1. Diana, thank you so much for your wonderful comment and it means a lot to me!😀 Book reviews are still some of my most nerve-wracking posts to write! The variety of the stories is incredible and I love how her imagination takes her anywhere in time and place – I can’t wait to read the second volume! Happy Halloween to you too? Are you celebrating out with your grandson?

      1. We live out in the woods in a very isolated area, Annika, so we get no visitors for Halloween, ghostly or alive. The grandson will be making the rounds in his neighborhood with his mom. He’s the grim reaper this year. 🙂 I love it.

    1. Mae, she is indeed … sets the bar very high and so generous with her time and help! Don’t know how she has time to write as well! So glad you enjoyed this review – thank you!😀

  14. Daniel Kemp

    A brilliant review, insightful yet concise. Congratulations, Sally! I wish you great success with your work. If anyone deserves success then it’s you.

    1. Daniel, thank you so much! 😀 How true that Sally deserves all her success – she indefatigable and works tirelessly on all aspects of writing, promotion, connections! A wonderful friend here! 😀

  15. Your reviews are so unbiased and honest Annika. Your fine details and emotions on the seamless flow of stories is brilliant. I just marvel at how well you put them across to the reader. Thanks for this wonderful review. Will pick it up for sure.

    1. 😊😊 Radhika, I’m blushing now … thank you so much for your kind words and it means so much to me! ❤️ If I connect with a book, as I did here, I find the reviews nearly write themselves. I tend to write notes as I read – but not too many. Then when I’ve finished the book, I’ll read through the notes, put them to the side and just write! The beginning is key, I find! I’m sure this is a book you’ll enjoy! Wishing you a lovley day! 😀

    1. Thank you so much, Brigid! 😀 I couldn’t imagine WP without Sally to be honest … a uniting platform for authors, invaluable support and encouragement. The epitomy of the best of blogging!

        1. You’re still on classic editor! 😀 I thought that had been sent to the sad land of shrivelled up programs! I’m sure you’ll have some great help to use Gutenberg – it’s not that scary. haha! I think my room turned blue the first weeks!😀

          1. The Classic editor will still be with us until December 31st 2021 allegedly.. I agree the Gutenberg editor has a lot going for it but not when you are posting several times a day and also doing book promotions such as the Cafe and Bookstore for three or four authors at a time. I just like to keep it simple from a time perspective and also format. I will have been blogging for 9 years by then and might want to make a change anyway… who knows that bestseller might have materialised..lol.. xx

  16. Annika, this is a beautiful review of what I am now convinced is a great book.
    You start it off so romantic and intriguing by referring to Shakespeare’s words,
    your own young pondering and Sally’s perfect title.
    All three drawn together seamlessly.

    From very young I have been convinced there is an importance in ones name. Growing up in a place where this was of import we were told why we were given the name and how it came about.
    Your description of Sally’s writing has now convinced me I have to read this book and I am certain it will be a delight and also create thoughtfulness.

    Thank you Annika and of course Sally Cronin.


    1. Miriam, heartfelt thanks for your kind and generous words … I hadn’t consciously drawn on three elements to introduce the book, rather this came naturally as I pondered about names, the title. The book is a great reminder of the importance of our names, the history behind, the weight of tradition, yet it is packed with fun, exciting and touching stories. I’m sure you will enjoy them all!😀

    1. Sally, it was totally my pleasure! 😀 Reading your book was one of those cases I tried to slow down as I didn’t want to finish it too soon! You are a natural storyteller and I love how your imagination works! You’re inspiring me to think outside the box! So glad to have made your day. xx

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