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. roughwighting says:

    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. 🙏❤️

  2. Erica/Erika says:

    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

    • Annika Perry says:

      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! 😀

      • Erica/Erika says:

        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.🙂

  3. Book Club Mom says:

    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!

  4. Miriam says:

    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.

  5. Clanmother says:

    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…

  6. Khaya Ronkainen says:

    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

    • Annika Perry says:

      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

  7. Sharon Bonin-Pratt says:

    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.

    • Annika Perry says:

      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!

  8. Jacqui Murray says:

    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.

  9. D. Wallace Peach says:

    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!

  10. Daniel Kemp says:

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

  11. radhikasreflection says:

    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.

    • Annika Perry says:

      😊😊 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! 😀

  12. delphini510 says:

    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.


    • Annika Perry says:

      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!😀

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