I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, all I knew was that it was about a rat that lives in a bookshop. My only experience of rats in books/films was Ratatouille, but I could take a guess that it would be nothing like that Disney/Pixar vision of happiness.
From the first chapter I was completely hooked, I would have read this in a day if I hadn’t had other things to worry about this weekend. I initially wondered how I would feel with a rat narrating the book; I usually like to have a strong connection to the main character, and I didn’t see how I would get this from a character that wasn’t human, let alone from a rat!
I needn’t have worried though, right from the start you are sucked right into the mind of Firmin, immediately made to feel for him as the ‘runt’ of the litter, and then as the only one left behind in this bookshop, alone and lonely, soaking up as much literature as he can without being spotted.
He’s such a clever rat and Savage has written the narrative so well that at times you could completely forget that he was even a rat. I felt every emotion right along with Firmin, from the shock at being spotted by Norman, to the anguish at the park incident, and the joy at being rescued by Jerry and finding a companion that would look after him. Soon followed by the grief at the loss of his friend, and the recognition of the coming of the end.
The backdrop of the book was the demolition of an area of Boston called Scollay Square, which was actually a true story (although with a few fabrications). It did make me smile to read that the ‘take as many books as you can in five minutes’ story was actually true. Made me smile, but then sad with the loss of livelihood and the way that even though Norman had no shop left, he still wanted the books to be enjoyed.
I really enjoyed this book, and I’m so glad that I was lent it, as it’s not the kind of book I would ever think to buy. I guess that goes to show I need to broaden my horizons a bit!