First published: 2006
Page count: 192
The back says: This is a novel told through the voice of a rat. Firmin is born in the basement of a ramshackle old bookstore but because he is the runt of the litter, he is forced to compete for food and ends up chewing on the books that surround him. Firmin soon realizes his source of nourishment has endowed him with the ability to read and this discovery fills him with an insatiable hunger for literature and a very unratlike sense of the world and his place in it. As Firmin navigates the shadowy streets of his decaying area, looking for understanding, his excitement, loneliness, fear, and self-consciousness become remarkably human and undeniably touching. But the days of the bookshop and of the close community around it are numbered. The area has been marked out for 'urban regeneration' and soon the faded glory of the bookshop, the small local theatre, the unique shops and small cafes will face the bulldozers and urban planners. Brilliantly original and richly allegorical, Firmin is brimming with charm and wistful longing for a world that understands the redemptive power of literature and treasures its seedy theaters, one-of-a-kind characters, and cluttered bookshops.
I say: I loved the idea of this more than the execution, which is weird because it’s told in a wonderful way; Savage’s prose is both engaging and sometimes humorous. The descriptions of the bookstore, the streets and theatres were vivid and I could see it all in front of me. It’s full of literary references, which is always a delight, even though I didn’t agree with Firmin’s views, but there was just something missing.
Maybe it’s because I couldn’t relate to Firmin.
Maybe it’s because the tale took a turn I didn’t like.
Either way, it was well worth the read and I’ll be on the lookout for more of Savage’s work in the future.