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In brief

Madame Bovary, C'est Moi: the great characters of literature and where they came from. By Andre Bernard. John Wiley. pound;12.99.

This seems like a stocking-filler book that's appeared too late for Christmas (and it's overpriced for a small hardback of quotes and anecdotes), but it will appeal to anyone who has watched fashions in names come and go (the woman whom Rhett Butler clasps to his chest in Gone With the Wind was almost named Pansy O'Hara), or tried to offer children an imaginative way into books (the origins of Winnie-the-Pooh and Alice are well documented, but what about Peter Rabbit, Stuart Little, Long John Silver and Madeline?).

JK Rowling has helped us all consider what makes a memorable and striking fictional name; the lists of alliterative names here would help children name characters. The examples lean towards US classics and there's no index of characters, so you have to read it all to see who's in there. But it's a great relief that Tolkien settled on Frodo rather than Bingo for Bilbo's nephew.

Geraldine Brennan

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