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The Book of Proper Names

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  3,873 ratings  ·  297 reviews
The Book of Proper Names is the story of the hapless orphan girl, Plectrude. Raised by her aunt, and unaware of the dark secret behind her past, she is a troubled but dreamy child who is both blessed and cursed by her intoxicating eyes. Discovered to have enormous gifts as a dancer, she is accepted at Paris's most prestigious ballet school, where she devotes herself to art ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published May 5th 2005 by Faber and Faber (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
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 ·  3,873 ratings  ·  297 reviews

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Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-french
I am left without words. And not in a “I just read the best book in my entire life, this was mindblowing”-kind of way, no, there is just no way I will be able to put Amélie’s weird ass narrative into words. Logically, I shouldn’t have even liked this book. It’s way too bizarre and fucked up for my usual taste but somehow this really worked and I adore the shit out of this novel.

This is by no means an all-encompassing recommendation as I have the feeling that a lot of readers will not enjoy Améli
Aug 07, 2015 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I often find Nothomb a little bit too keen to shock. Her stories often contain such implausible elements -- presented as if they were mere nothings -- as to render the whole thing just... slightly ridiculous. In addition, her books are usually too short. Once you've managed to get somewhat into the story, it's over. And here that's a shame, because the ballet school part was really good. That could have been developed into a much more powerful novel, but then Nothomb has to go and ruin it with e ...more
Jun 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unusual and charming is definitely this author's trademark.

Plectrude, is the daughter of Lucette, born from tragedy she is raised by her mother's sister and is permitted to live a most unusual life. Nothing is too good for her and there is nothing that pleases her that her adoptive parent won't offer her.

She is a quite, dreamlike child. She enters a dance school after she is unable to adapt to the normal children's school. Her dreams and magic are slowly being erased in the dance school where th
Lukasz Pruski
"But being ten years old is the best thing that can happen to a human being."

Regrettably The Book of Proper Names (2002), my seventh short novel by Amelie Nothomb, does not come close to the greatness of her masterpiece Loving Sabotage or two other outstanding novels The Character of Rain and Hygiene and the Assassin. So while I really wanted to love this book by one of my favorite authors it has left me feeling less than enthusiastic.

The protagonist of the story is a girl named Plectrude,
Jul 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had very high expectations for this book. Famed author, intriguing title. I was anticipating something as exceptional as, for example, a novel written in the non-linear format of a dictionary. Now that would've been really innovative.

But the real book was a disappointment and not because of its traditional format or the plot itself. Plectrude was born in prison since her mother killed her father: she didn't want for her child the mediocre name he had chosen. She wanted an exceptional name ins
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-french
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 12, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If I could give this one lower than a one-star rating I would. What a pointless book. The only good thing I can say for it was that it wasn't long. Oh, and I got it at the library, so I didn't pay for it. This is the story of a teenage girl who gets pregnant and then decides the baby's father will not be a good father, so she kills him, goes to jail, has the baby in jail, gives her a horrible name (Plechtrude) and then kills herself. The baby is raised by her aunt, becomes an anorexic ballerina, ...more
The simple storybook narrative style of this piece is somewhat misleading. On the surface this is a post-modern interpretation of Cinderella & other 'princess' tales, but there's also more. There are snippets of feminist critique (on motherhood, on ideals of beauty, etc), there are pointed comments on the process of learning and the limitations of the educational system, as well as lighthearted yet profound insights into anorexia. On top of it all, there is Amelie Nothomb toying with her readers ...more
AmberBug com*
Gothic Nirvana! Each novella I read by Nothomb makes my skin go all bumpy. She oozes such beautiful, dark, twisted and elegant writing.

This story follows the tragic story of Plectrude, an orphan taken in by her Aunt. The background of this girl is tragic and what happens throughout the story is deeply tragic. TRAGEDY! Oh, how I love thee. For some reason I'm pulled in when a story contains anything twisted, dark and tragic. I believe it must be due to the fact that this makes something unusual,
MJ Nicholls
Nothomb is a tough cookie to fathom. Her books are simple and short, predictable to the point of cliché, and yet eminently readable. She doesn't mess around. She tells the story as fast as possible and leaves the reader in a glow. That is clever.

This novella is a riff on the child-prodigy-runs-into-obstacles theme, with an undercurrent of murder and madness. Nothomb does a good job playing with these clichés, moulding them into something original with wit and panache.

(NB: I think I've used the p
Христина Арсова Kikiland
Intresting mix .... so easy to read but under ...deep ocean.... strange waves I see there.....
Dec 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal, ethereal read

Killed me a bit but resuscitated me at the end of it all
Faith Justice
Sep 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: given-away
I finished this in one subway round trip plus 5 minutes - a lovely little book! I'm rapidly becoming a fan of Nothomb. I find her style whimsical but profoundly insightful. This is a pointed critique of a culture - in this case western girlhood and its relentless emphasis on beauty and romance. Luckily Plectrude has an inner strength which allows her to recognize the threats (most of the time) and survive. I didn't care much for the ending, but that's the point - I'm a western woman and didn't l ...more
Roxana Dreptu
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read_in_english
If you like absurd literature, if you've tried and enjoyed Amelie Nothomb before, this is the book for you. This was an incredibly fast and entertaining read for me. Behind the touch of absurd there's always an obsession, a passion, a psychosis that gets rid of the randomness I expected from such a book. The ending was so twisted, I'm not going to say anything about it because I'd make my review spoilery. I'd only say Amelie Nothomb added such an unexpected touch to it. ...more
Siu Jane
Feb 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I would've given it 4 stars but the ending was a HUGE disappointment. Too bad, there was potential in this book :-(. ...more
Stefania Capece Iachini
A good book... The pages flow very fast. I really liked the beginning and the characters are very interesting.
Richard Hannay
Apr 08, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, awful
Awful. Bad writing. Laughable characters. Plot flat as The Netherlands. Saving grace: mercifully short (and even so, 150 pages too long).
Rachel Lauren
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely tragic and hilarious
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a challenge to read a French book but it went better than expected. Perfect story for 5 th year dancers!!! Typical Amélie Nothombs. Now I have a thirst for more: Soif!
Aug 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My second book by the author and much more enjoyable for me than the first. And quite hard to classify besides under the broad term Literature, I guess. Still, often a book succeeds in being "well out there" and this does that, and then some. I'll skip regurgitating the blurb, seems reviewers think somehow that qualifies as "writing a review" in part, though I find it wasted time and unoriginal. Plectrude, a name that makes me think of some uncomfortable personal vice one tries to keep secret, i ...more
She had always been that part, a girl so enthusiastic about her chosen apprenticeships that she has managed to pervert and destroy them all

I feel personally attacked by this quote.

A strange little book with a great ending. It wasn't the strangeness that made me enjoy it less, but the translation and its small awkwardnesses. Unfortunately, I think that's bound to happen with all works in translation. Or at least, that's been my personal experience. I find it incredibly frustrating that I can't j
The Grimm Lady
Jun 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I admit I am biased when it comes to Amelie Nothomb . She's the one that started my thirst for reading back in my early teens . Her books represent weird art made for weirdos . There is no way to explain what she actually writes without making is sound plain when it's so much more .
One common thing though it's that they are mostly fictional biographies and in this case the one of the singer RoBERT .
Karla Eaton
What a bizarre book. My daughter read this in her fairy-tales class in college, so she explained to me that it is a post-modern fairy tale. I think I would have rated it one number higher because it has an enchanting voice and tells a great cautionary tale for young women but that last two pages are too weird for me.
Such a cool and quick read.
Jul 11, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shane Doyle
I thought almost the whole book was really good, but the ending made absolutely no sense and threw away all of the Plectrude's character development, at least in my opinion. The ending and many other aspects of the story had so much potential to be better, which is why my rating is 3 stars. I would have given it 4 but the ending really just made no sense, it was as if the author ran out of ideas. ...more
Shane Dana
Jul 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surreal and gripping. I'm still trying to pinpoint what I exactly liked about this short book but I had a good reading experience nonetheless with it. Sometimes we all just need a fast read that leaves you with a good mix of confusion and wonder. ...more
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amelie Nothomb imagines the biography of her assassin (a balerina named Plectrude).

Another funny thing about her books is her choice for characters' names.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible! And to think that this is inspired by a real life story...
3.5 stars
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Amélie Nothomb, born Fabienne Claire Nothomb, was born in Etterbeek, Belgium on 9 July 1966, to Belgian diplomats. Although Nothomb claims to have been born in Japan, she actually began living in Japan at the age of two until she was five years old. Subsequently, she lived in China, New York, Bangladesh, Burma, the United Kingdom (Coventry) and Laos.
She is from a distinguished Belgian political fa

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