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  • Barbara Copperthwaite


There was an interesting article in The Guardian today about the titles of books (which can be read here).

It got me thinking about the current trend for titles with ‘girl’ in it. Suddenly something occurred to me that went way beyond thinking about the trend; it was more a revelation about western culture, obsession with youth, and the potential diminishment of adult females. How did it do that?

Because I suddenly realised that although the titles reference ‘girl’, every single one of the characters is in fact a woman. Would it be such a terrible thing to acknowledge this? Would sales be affected if it were ‘The Woman On The Train’ instead of ‘girl’? How about ‘The Woman In The Ice’?

I suppose the alliteration of ‘Gone Girl’ just about justifies its use; that and the fact that the main character has a little rant about such things herself. She talks of the illusion of the perfect woman – note the word illusion. The sad thing is that everyone else using ‘girl’ seems to have missed that point entirely, and instead seem simply to use it because it is a buzz word that encapsulates something young, beautiful, and to be coveted. I wonder if Gillian Flynn is tearing her hair out now over that?

It can certainly be frustrating when someone misses the point of a title that has been agonised over for months. Take my debut novel, Invisible. One reader in their review said that they didn’t understand why it was called that because it didn’t have anything to do with the book. I was amazed. To me, Invisible sums up the story entire. This is about a woman who has spent her entire life being overlooked in one way or another: by family, friends, and more than anything by her husband. She even becomes the one victim of crime that no one notices. Even when she becomes one of the most infamous women in Britain, still no one truly sees her.

But how important is a title? Is it worth spending months pondering over? Should it be something that encapsulates the story, or merely intrigues? Does a poor title mean fewer sales?

And also, more importantly, should a title go beyond the book and try to be something bigger? Should we, as authors, all make an effort to drop the ‘girl’ and instead embrace the ‘woman’? Would our subtle change have a subliminal effect on society, and help to stop the pointless, continual pursuit of youth? No, I’m not convinced, either…but I think it’s worth a go.

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