Title: The Odd Book of Baby Names
Author: Anees Salim
Publisher: Penguin Hamish Hamilton
Genre: Literary Fiction
So, here’s the deal: Once you start reading this book you will be entranced by the simplicity of prose, the flair with which the narrative moves (which it does quite swiftly), and how Anees Salim is meticulous and to the point – at the same time making us imagine so much, from one page to the other. This is what happens right through The Odd Book of Baby Names.
The Odd Book of Baby Names is about eight characters that take centre stage – eight progenies of a king who is dying. Eight unique voices, each with their story to tell about their King, their father, and the circumstances surrounding them. And these are just eight that are known to the reader, perhaps among 100 that the King had sired. The book of baby names is the book in which the King notes the names of the babies (as he has given it to them) along with the meaning.
The book is so layered, way beyond what meets the eye. Of course there is the angle of the dying King and a kingdom that is no longer his. The kingdom in question is hinted at Hyderabad, and the period in which the book is set alludes to the 60s and the 70s. The women that the King was intimate with have no history or agency. One must also look at the time period in which this book is set. The traditions, the advantages taken by royalty, the utter nonchalance of not knowing the future of your children, and more than anything else the mental health issues of these eight people that shows itself to the reader page by page.
Anees Salim’s writing cannot be boxed into any genre. I think there is a unique style, that didn’t remind of me any other writer. The sentences sometimes are long and in detail as needed, some sections are to the point and precise, The book is unique – it is simple in its approach and complex at the same time. There is a lot of difference in all of the 8 voices and to make each of the distinct is true craft.
The Odd Book of Baby Names was a sure hit of a read for me. It was paced just right, the words and expressions used were a delight, and the reader in me couldn’t wait to get back to it till it was done. Please read it.
Books and Authors mentioned in The Odd Book of Baby Names:
- Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare