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The Book of Proper Names by Amélie Nothomb (review by Tiffany Z. ’17)

The Book of Proper NamesThe Book of Proper Names by Amélie Nothomb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The simplicity of the prose in Amélie Nothomb’s The Book of Proper Names may recall a children’s story, but in fact it belies the fairly bizarre nature of the novella. Lucette, a young mother, is extremely irritated by her husband’s predictions of their child being a perfectly ordinary person—so irritated that she feels the only way to disagree is to murder him. The rest of the novella is dedicated to the unusual yet somehow relatable life of Lucette’s daughter Plectrude, an equally unusual girl seemingly caught up in the threads of fate. Instead of attempting to defy her destiny, Plectrude ecstatically embraces hers—but is she really playing into the hands of Fate, or is she merely entertaining her own fantasies? The language of the novella is simple, but the complexity of thought and human emotion may make it a confusing read for many. However, Nothomb portrays her characters with startling accuracy and discusses many interesting ideas during the course of this book. For those who are willing to spend an hour or so on this piece, I certainly recommend The Book of Proper Names. Puzzling yet satisfying, it is definitely worth the short time it takes to finish it. – Tiffany Z. ‘17

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