One Hundred Names – Cecilia Ahern

“Journalist Kitty Logan’s career has been destroyed by scandal, and she now faces losing the woman who guided her and taught her everything she knew. At her mentor’s bedside, Kitty asks her – what is the one story she always wanted to write? The answer lies in a file buried in Constance’s office: a list of one hundred names. There is no synopsis, no explanation, nothing else to explain what the story is or who these people are. The list is simply a mystery. But before Kitty can talk to her friend, it is too late. With everything to prove, Kitty is assigned the most important task of her life – to write the story her mentor never had the opportunity to. Kitty has to not only track down and meet the people on the list, but find out what connects them. And, in the process of hearing ordinary people’s stories, she uncovers Constance’s – and starts to understand her own…”

Before I launch into a review of the book, I just wanted to commend HarperCollins for the sheer beauty of this proof copy – linen paper, embossing and lovely use of silver foil. One Hundred Names was a delight to look at, as much as it was to read. Now, on to the review!

Cecelia Ahern’s books have always been slightly hit-and-miss for me. Present in her books, which are not to be confused with generic romantic fiction, is often an element of surrealness, calling for the need to suspend disbelief. Generally this has worked for me (I really enjoyed The Time of My Life) but sometimes I find the mark has been overshot a little. This was definitely not the case with One Hundred Names; it’s a beautiful, bittersweet tale from start to finish.

The scene is set with protagonist Kitty Logan, whose journalistic nature has led to a false accusation on a PE teacher, which has left her career at Etcetera magazine in tatters. Kitty’s lucky that her best friend, Constance, is the founder and editor of the magazine and realises the true extent of Kitty’s talent rath. She puts her faith in the now-besmirched journalist to the test by leaving Kitty a mission – to write the story she has always wanted to write. Cancer has stopped her from creating her final masterpiece, and shortly after leaving her instructions with Kitty she passes away, leaving her with only a list of 100 names as a guideline for the article. Desperate to honour Constance and prove her worth at the magazine, Kitty is relieved when she’s commissioned to write the piece – but as she starts contacting the names, one by one, she struggles to see the link between them all. She searches for clues, but Constance has left nothing else behind – apart from her grieving husband, Bob, and a rather messy office – for Kitty to follow.

On deadline and with a daunting list of people in front of her, Kitty starts meeting up with the people on the list to try and find her story. She’s only got time to meet a handful, but as she talks more and more to the small number of people she’s managed to make contact with, she discovers that they all have their own take to tell. They’re not interlinked or connected in some way, but each has an amazing, inspiring, or shocking life story. Kitty brings them all together on a roadtrip to fulfil some of the group member’s greatest wishes, and what she receives in turn is the inspiration and material to do Constance’s final wishes justice themselves.

A lovely heartwarming story that begs you to keep turning the pages, One Hundred Names takes you through a gamut of emotions; it’s at times sad, shocking, amusing, heartwarming and, ultimately, bittersweet. Cecelia Ahern is a skilled storyteller, and she creates each of these colourful, well-rounded characters’ stories with detailed depth and range. After finishing the book, I can most certainly judge it by its cover: beautiful, intricate and wonderful in its simplicity.

Many thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy.

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