I find this a very broad category today;
A book with a person’s name in the title (real or fictional).
I mean in every genre, there are a wealth of books containing (or perhaps consisting of solely) the name of the characters: every one of the Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl series in Young Adult; Frankenstein, Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Jane Eyre, Melmoth the Wanderer in the Gothic genre. Heading through the classics, we meet Dickens, where we rub shoulders with Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, Dombey and Sons… and Shakespeare’s plays introduce us to Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, various parts of various King Henries as well as Kings John, Richard II and III, Julius Caesar, my warmly remembered A-level text, Anthony and Cleopatra. And in the classics, we can shake hands with The Odyssey which at least derives from Odysseus, Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and Prometheus Bound, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and Philoctetes, and Euripides’ blood-soaked Medea, Heracles and Orestes.
Still, at least this category gives me the chance to use one of my favourite words: eponymous!
Off the top of my head, I find it harder to recall many novels in the detective genre with a name in the title: they may reference a character such as The Cuckoo’s Calling or The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson or I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, without using the name; they sometimes identify a location, whether that be Styles where mysterious affairs happen, the Nile which sees death, or Tana French’s Faithful Place, Broken Harbour or The Secret Place. When you come across a blunt title like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novel Lord Edgware Dies, it is a bit of a surprise! An unsettling surprise. I suppose it is a genre which deals in mysteries and secrets and generally revolves around the uncovering of identities so a reveal in the title could be a bit of a spoiler!
Similarly, fantasy tends to wreathe itself in mystery and has fewer names in the titles, at least those which spring easily to mind! Again, it is perhaps a genre which revels in mystery as much as the detective genre, but the mystery of the world and universe – or cosmere – being built, of the physics and magic systems and races within it. It is also a genre which has suffered from the perception that its titles are a little formulaic and driven by the totemic The Lord of the Rings – so much so that every so often my Facebook Feed comes up with various images such as this one, a randomly selected example from zizziology.com.
To be fair, there are a range of these for all genres! I do like me a word cloud, too though and stumbled over this one from Orbit Books, reflecting the frequency of words used in fantasy book titles.
Literary novels – and I wonder whether anyone sets out to write (and therefore give a title to) a literary novel… – tend not to have names in the title. If we (somewhat arbitrarily) look at the Man Booker longlists (and personally I find the Man Booker a little hit-and-miss but it is a annual ritual to collect and read as many of the longlist as I can), we find Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh and My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout occurred in 2016, George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, last year, and Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black this year.
Anyway, I fear I have rambled on massively so, as a selection from the many many that I could have selected, I am going to plump for Esi Edugyan’s eponymous Washington Black. As much as anything to prompt me to write a review of it because, if I don’t write it soon, I’ll have a backlog of those to do because I’m reaching the end of Sally Rooney’s Normal People too!