Book Review for “The Writer’s Cats” by Muriel Barbery, Translated by Alison Anderson, Illustrated by Maria Guitart.
Summary: “Muriel Barbery, via her feline friends and co-conspirators, takes readers into her atelier, offering them a behind-the-scenes peek into her process and problems, joys and disappointments. The tale is told from the perspective of one of the writer’s four cats, Kirin, who, together with her cohort, may or may not be a reliable narrator. There’s Ocha, the leader of the gang, a tough guy with a soft heart; the bandy-legged and affectionate Mizu, Ocha’s sister; the phlegmatic and refined Petrus, lover of flowers; and finally, pretty Kirin, narrator of this bewitching story.“
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Fiction, Humor; Settings: Contemporary, France; Other Categories: Novella, Illustrated, Magical Realism.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a fan of cats. No, I am not only allergic to them, but I find them creepy and they scare me. However, I am a fan of Muriel Barbery and I couldn’t resist taking down this little illustrated novella. And it is little; only 80 pages long, which means even I could finish it in only two sittings. That means this will be a very quick read for everyone else – one short session should do it.
Plus, you know, once you start to smile within seconds of starting to read something, you don’t want to stop what you’re doing. Yeah, sure, life got in the way for a bit and I had to leave it off for a couple hours, but I read to the end as soon as I got back to it. This one actually means I’ve finally been able to finish a book in one day! (Is it cheating that I did it with such a short work? No, it isn’t, if you ask me; so there!)
But all that aside, what exactly will you be getting with this book? Well, what you’re getting is a cat’s account of what it is like to live with the author. Yeah, you probably already know that I’m not a fan of narrators being anything but humans, and even if that human is dead today, I prefer them to be alive while they’re narrating the story I’m reading. However, … and this is a BIG however, I’m always willing to have an exception to the rule, and Barbery has succeeded in doing just that with this petite book.
See, although I’ll still not accept that these cats have written this little story, I can accept it as a cute mechanic for the author to talk about herself, without actually writing an autobiography. By using these cats Barbery can focus on a very narrow part of her everyday life, and thereby talk just about what she finds as a curious component of how she works as an author. Its sort of like putting up a little hand mirror to the writing process, without it getting tedious or bogged down in the type of minutia that readers might find boring. Obviously, Barbery must think her working life is on the mundane side, or she would have written the book in her own voice.
Now you should know that if you get the kindle file for this, and you read it on one of the readers that is black and white, as opposed to any of the tablet-type eReaders, you’ll probably not get the full impact of the illustrations here. That’s a bit of a shame, if you ask me, because many of these drawings came out very small on my Paperwhite, and of course, there were no colors. Yes, I can see from other reviews and websites that they’re mostly colorless, with shades of orange breaking up the gray. Still, I think this might be better to read in print, to fully appreciate these pictures. I could see enough to say that they’re quite cute and are meant to be more like cartoons than accurate depictions, which works perfectly with the subject matter (and the “narrator”).
All told, this isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but a really lovely bit of fluff that is an extremely quick and enjoyable read. In fact, I liked it enough to actually think about ordering a print copy, so I could get the total experience of this book. For all this I can warmly recommend this novella, and I think it deserves a very adorable four out of five stars. (And no, it didn’t change my mind about cats in general, I’m afraid. Despite that, if I have to encounter any cats, I prefer them this way than in real life!)
Europa Editions released “The Writer’s Cats” by Muriel Barbery, translated by Alison Anderson, and illustrated by Maria Guitart in October, 2021, but this book will be available in the US on November 9, 2021. This book is (or will be) available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, The Book Depository UK and The Book Depository US (free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via Edelweiss.