Overtom's weblog

GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN  (25 march 2004)

In my weblog of 20th March you can read why it is not a very good idea for a writer to use too many names in a novel. Or at least an index should be provided for those readers who find it a problem to learn a hundred or so new names.

As an example I mentioned Phillip Margolin's novel Gone, But Not Forgotten, in which the first fifty pages introduce forty-five new characters. 

As I went on reading, Margolin kept on introducing new names. I estimate the novel introduces a hundred names or so.  

But please don't think I only want to be negative about the book.

Ignoring the excess of names, the story Mr Margolin presents is an excellent one. The theme is really something that many people will have wondered about: is a lawyer right defending a client who has committed a most repulsive and heinous crime?

After several women are tortured bestially, similar atrocities are executed ten years later in a completely different part of America.

It must be said: Mr Margolin treats this theme very in a captivating way: several times, the lawyer in the book changes her attitude about the question whether she should defend Martin Darius, a cruel serial killer.

Besides, he manages to keep the reader in doubt about whodunnit.

Still, one may wonder why Mr Margolin has made things so difficult for his readers by using so many names. I could think of two reasons:

  • Many details usually contribute to the realism of a story. But couldn't Mr Margolin think of any details that were less demanding on the reader?
  • Since lawyers' files are usually full of names, lawyers don't have much trouble remembering and sifting important names. The average reader doesn't have this faculty.
So on the whole, Mr Margolin's novel is highly interesting, but it could have been much more accessible if not so many names had been used.

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