Book review – 2am At The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

This quirky and unusual book is set in Philadelphia, with all the action taking place one Christmas Eve Eve. We start with Madeleine, a singing, smoking, swearing nine-year-old who has recently lost her mother and whose father has disappeared into his own world, leaving her to her own devices. As the day progresses, we are introduced to a range of other characters, including lonely teacher Sarina and bar-owner Lorca, who seems to be unable to keep his business above the law.

The story is told in very short sections which are divided by headings telling us the time. This is about the only part of the book that is logical, as the rest of the narrative skips around from character to character, and at times becomes almost2am cat's pajamas fantasy.

I can see why some people might not like this book and could find it frustrating. It is hard to follow at times, and it often feels like the story never gets going as it skips around a lot and goes off on tangents. A lot of characters are introduced, some of who don’t add much to the story, and there are some anecdotal asides that come and go for seemingly no reason too. Also, if I am honest, not that much happens – there are no hugely dramatic twists and turns and although at times the pace seems frantic as the narrative flits around, the story itself progresses quite slowly.

But despite this, I really enjoyed this book. I liked the quirky style and it felt quite unique in the way it was told. Some of the language is poetic and the scene is really nicely set, and there’s some funny dialogue too. I really liked the main characters – they are all very different but I felt like you got to know them quite well as the book went on.

This is quite unlike other books I’ve read, and it needs to be demolished in large sittings, as it is hard to get into if you just read it in short bursts. I really enjoyed it, but it certainly wouldn’t be for everyone.

My rating: 8 out of 10


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