Although I was always turned off by animal stories (even those like Animal Farm or Watership Down that were allegories for our own or future society) as a younger reader, I couldn't resist asking for a review copy of a book that features a rat born in a bookstore. Basically, mention books in your jacket or marketing copy and you can reel me in hook, line and sinker. The good news is that this book did not disappoint. Firmin is born into a nest of shredded pages torn from Joyce's Ulysses. This, perhaps, makes it understandable that it is a bit of a struggle to get into the book initially. But persevere and the omnivorous reader is rewarded. Firmin tells of his life in books, both eating them and once he learns, in reading them. I definitely chuckled when our intrepid rat tastes toilet paper for the first time and discovers it to taste similarly to Emily Post's etiquette tomes. But Firmin is the book rat in all of us. His imagination, nutured by his reading, is writ large and oftentimes gets him into trouble. He sees the coming destruction of his neighborhood but prefers to stay oblivious, with his nose in a book. He is, in short, a furry scholar who can only shut out the real world for so long. And don't for one minute think he's limited to the highbrow. Oh no. He is also a connisseur of girlie movies, featuring women he calls his "Lovelies," shown at the local movie theater, which is also a treasure trove of food for a rat. Firmin is a funny and loveable character and the book is a small gem for eclectic readers.
On a non-content related point, I will say that the chunk missing from the cover and pages of the book (shaped to look as if Firmin was a giant rat and had taken a chomp of the book), was highly annoying. It was cute in the store (yes, this was one of those Advanced Reading Copies I never received because of my new address snafu and so bought myself to fulfill the review obligation), but it was hideous in practice. The chunk was exactly where I try to hold a book and made holding this one uncomfortable. So any publishers out there thinking of doing something like this, it's nice to look at novelties of this sort but not a good idea in practice, at least as far as I'm concerned.