Sunday, June 29, 2014

The (Insert Occupation)'s (Female Relative): Novel titles

I'm pretty bad at titling, but one title trend I sort of jumped on with my last working title for the WIP was the now-cliched The (Occupation)'s Daughter trend. When I realized that the original working title was no longer adequate, I started calling the WIP The Sailor's Daughters simply because I'd seen the trend and my book is, in fact, about a former sailor. And his daughters.

Then I started seeing that title format everywhere. Maybe it was because I joined Goodreads this year, but more book titles have been in front of me lately, and I am heartily sick of this format. Authors do not often have the final say when it comes to titles.

Titles are marketing:
Is the title memorable? Is it catchy? Does it say something about the story? Does it fit the tone? Has there been anything like it out recently?

I look at the titles I have on my bookshelf: Grania, Lady Macbeth, The Other Boleyn Girl, Lady of the English, Emma, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, Songs of Willow Frost, The Woman Warrior, The Countess Below Stairs, Mistress Shakespeare.

These titles tell me who the protagonist likely is. They give me a flavor of the style or the kind of story I'll read. They vary in length. They put the female character front and center in the book's title instead of making her only The Quirky Person's Girl Relative.

I searched on Goodreads to see how many such titles I could find. Of this list, I've only read two (The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger). not making fun of the books themselves or the authors---not having read the bulk of them, I can't say if the titular "daughter of" is actually the subject of the novel or not. But I think it's time we put this particular trend to sleep. I mean, really, what's next? The Accountant's Wife's Aunt's Grandmother?

This list is by no means exhaustive. Listed by year of publication.

Have you guys read any of these books? Are they primarily about the daughter/wife or no? What do you think about this trend? Do these titles speak to you or not?



The Mad Tinker's Daughter (2014)

The Madman's Daughter  (2013)

The Sausage Maker's Daughters (2012)
The Baker's Daughter (2012)
The Abortionist's Daughter (2012)
The Kingmaker's Daughter (2012)
The Bloodletter's Daughter (2012)

The Apothecary's Daughter (2011)
The Tiger's Wife (2011)
The Merchant's Daughter (2011)

The Hangman's Daughter (2010)
The Spice Merchant's Daughter (2010)
The Murderer's Daughters (2010)

The Anarchist's Daughter (2009)
The Memory Keeper's Daughter (2009)
The Apostate's Daughter (2009)
The Witch's Daughter (2009)
The Pastor's Wife (2009)
The Apothecary's Daughter (2009)

The Heretic's Daughter (2008)
The Senator's Wife (2008)
The Diplomat's Wife (2008)

The Gravedigger's Daughter (2007)
The Abortionist's Daughter (2006)

The Saddlemaker's Wife (2006)
The Apothecary's Daughter (2005)
The Alchemist's Daughter (2005)

The Time Traveler's Wife (2003)

The Pilot's Wife (1998)
The Bonesetter's Daughter (1991)



Other awesome articles on the same subject:
What's In a Name: The Book Title Conundrum
The ___'s Daughter
Just Press Play: The {blank's} Daughter
The Male Profession's Female Relative
Anna Karenina as The Bureaucrat's Wife: The Fight for Women's Identity in Book Titles


12 comments:

  1. Yes! Also I hate that these titles define the women based on the men. Women have their own identities outside of XX's wife/daughter/sister.

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    1. Exactly! Why can't the women have the cool occupation? The only one I can think of the opposite is Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Dang! That IS a lot!!! I haven't done any research, but I had been hearing/seeing that trend. I wonder tho if keeping that formula helps with sales any. Still, crazy. I like your new title more ;-)

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    1. Krystal saw The Mad Tinker's Daughter yesterday during chat, so I was like, "You know what? Let me look on Goodreads." There are many, many more; these are only a few.

      I'd start getting all the daughters confused, but maybe that's just me.

      Delete
  3. The titles on your bookshelf are so much better! I've never read any of those. Partly because I see titles like that and automatically think that the book is not for me. Also, they make me cringe a little. The only book on my shelf that I could find like that is The Magician's Nephew, book one of The Chronicles of Narnia. I'm not really sure why it's called that. I haven't read it in a whole. It doesn't carry the same exhaustion though.

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    1. I have a book called The Queen's Dollmaker, but it's a little different in that both queen and dollmaker are female. The same with The Queen's Fool.

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  4. The Computer Programmer's Widow. :D Interesting, the programmer is dead.

    I just made that up, but it would make for an interesting POV. lol

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    1. It would! Is the widow a programmer, too? Does she know all his coding? :-)

      Delete
  5. Lol! I love the Accountant's Wife's Aunt's Grandmother. Honestly, I like simple titles which stick out. It's terrible going onto Goodreads, searching for a certain title, and finding 30 other books with the exact same one. Horrid. And these other titles (daughters, wives, whatnots. . .although whatnots might be a good title ;) ) seem to side-step a message. I tend to like directness a little more.

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    1. The Accountant's Wife's Aunt's Whatnot!

      I like a bit of poetry in the title or something weighty that fits the story or something that tells me something about the book--whether it's a setting or the style or a character. But I agree, I like directness, too.

      What are these occupation-female titles telling us about the story, style, or character? Is it really about the daughter or wife? When there are so many similar-sounding titles that it's been noted and written about repeatedly, then the title is useless.

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  6. I've gotten tired of these titles, too.

    It's interesting how different the framing is when you flip it. "The Time-Traveler's Husband" immediately implies a female character flitting off doing exciting things (since most people would assume an opposite-sex marriage) with a husband who has a passive, stay-at-home role in the marriage. A role people don't usually imagine men as having. Similar for "The Senator's Husband," "The Pilot's Husband" . . .

    It's less glaring if you swap "daughter" for "son," but I'm still bored of the cliche, and you're right about there being problem with so often needing to frame a heroine through the lens of her father's profession.

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    1. Strangely, I don't have this problem with The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, even though you could say it fits into this. I mean, maybe The Secret Daughter of the Tsarina would have fit better, since the modern MC is fixated on the tsarina rather than the tsar.

      I didn't read all of the reviews for these books on Goodreads, but several of them seemed to imply that these books don't really focus on the titular daughter anyway! And as is obvious from titles I own and have read, it's not impossible to title a book with the main female character!

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Thank you so much for your comments and thoughts. Check back soon. I reply to all comments. Happy reading!