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Names from the Book You’re Reading!

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Thanks, Hanniekitt, for posting this great question in the forums that we’re taking to the blog: What are the names in the book you’re currently reading, and what do you think of them?

You can think of this as the Nameberry Book Club, where we talk not about plot and pacing and characters but about the characters’ names (sounds like our kind of book club, right?).

I just finished reading the new New York Times bestselling novel Orphan Train, by my friend Christina Baker Kline who’s blogged for Nameberry on naming her three sons (and making some mistakes along the way).  Her characters’ names include:

VivianOne of those names I’ve been hearing a lot of in fiction recently as in life, maybe because it means life?  Ann Hood recently wrote for us about using it in her novel The Obituary Writer.

NiamhVivian‘s original Irish name, changed when she was put on the orphan train because it was too “foreign and difficult.”  Couldn’t help feeling that losing her lovely name was one of the biggest tragedy’s of the character’s difficult life!

Molly — The Native American teenager that the old Vivian befriends….and my husband’s pick for our daughter!

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clairenecklace

Novelist Ann Hood, bestselling author of The Knitting Circle and The Red Threadexplores the interplay between naming children and naming the characters in her newest book, The Obituary Writer

When I chose the name Claire for one of the protagonists of my new novel, The Obituary Writer, I thought I’d found the perfect name for a woman living in 1961. To me, Claire sounded sophisticated without seeming snobby; feminine but not girlish; and although not unusual a name, it was also not common.

So imagine my surprise when I started to read another novel partially set in the early 1960s, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, and found a protagonist named Claire. The feeling was similar to the day I showed up at a Mommy group with my baby son Sam and every other boy there was also named Sam.

After I got over discovering this other literary Claire, I wondered if Jess Walter and I were somehow tapping into a hot new name trend. But no. Claire has been solidly in the Top 100 girl names for a decade, and among the U.S. Top 1000 since they started keeping records in 1880.

Unless, I thought, characters’ names in novels influence baby names, especially if those books are made into movies ala Love Story and its infamous influence on the popularity of Jennifer?

Lots of parents seem to have been influenced by the romantic hero of Nicholas Sparks’ novel-turned-blockbuster-movie The Notebook to name their sons Noah. In the 1980s—two decades before The NotebookNoah’s popularity held steady in the 200s and only made a big leap upward in the late 1990s when the book was first published, jumping again in 2004 after the movie came out.  By 2011, Noah had moved all way up to the fifth most popular boys’ name.

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