BookBrowse Reviews Rat by Fernanda Eberstadt

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Rat

A Novel

by Fernanda Eberstadt

Rat by Fernanda Eberstadt
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2011, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

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An enthralling novel with a luminous sense of place with a bold, engaging young heroine for our times

Once in a while a book comes along that I simply love. I sink into the story and am carried away for hours into another world and another life. I reach the end feeling that I have been on vacation. Rat did that for me. Here at BookBrowse, we recommend books that entertain and inform. I did learn some things: the various winds of the Pyrenees Orientales region stand out in my mind. But most of all I was entertained by this modern day fairy tale. Let me tell you some of the ways I loved Rat.

I loved the main character. Celia (nicknamed Rat by her loving but flakey mom) is fierce and feral, changes like the wind and has a brave heart. She is the quintessential child who goes in search of the missing parent.

I loved the setting. The south of France, the Mediterranean with the Pyrenees mountains as a backdrop. The funky apartment where Rat lives with her mom, a former wine cellar in an old farmhouse, with bad plumbing, is transformed through Rat's eyes into a fairy dwelling, reminding me of Francis Hodgson Burnett's Little Princess in her attic.

I loved the tale: fifteen year old daughter of a single mom goes on a quest to find her impossibly glamorous father in London, trailing with her an adopted brother and helped by random acts of kindness along the way.

I even loved the end of the story, which I cannot tell you, except that it is true to the way things go when starry-eyed teens have to make a synthesis out of their dreams and reality.

I could tell you that some of the characters were not wholly believable. Or that Rat's journey through France with no money and across the English Channel without proper papers was improbable. That the dialogue was not always impeccable. But for this reader, none of that mattered enough to detract from such a fine, fine novel.

I have not read any of Fernanda Eberstadt's four earlier novels. Apparently Rat is quite a departure from those, but I have already checked one of them out of the library. Rat is being marketed as an adult novel, but I think Young Adult readers would love it as much as I did. I felt I was approximately sixteen while I was reading it and longing to have the exciting life of Rat.

About the Author
Fernanda Eberstadt was born in New York City on November 10, 1960. Her maternal grandfather was the poet Ogden Nash. As a child, Eberstadt spent summers in her grandparents' house on the New Hampshire seacoast. She recalls word-games at meals when Nash would teach his grandchildren new words, and then try to tempt them into alternate meanings. "One day, when I was about five, he taught me the word 'gullible', and the next day at lunch, asked me if it were true that 'gullible' was used to describe someone that seagulls considered a delicacy. She says that, "From my grandfather, I grew up thinking of the English language as this great saltwater-taffy voodoo doll that can stand a lot of teasing and contorting." continued...

Bibliography:

Novels

  • Low Tide (1985): The story of Jezebel, daughter of an English art-dealer and a mad Louisiana heiress, and her fatal love-affair with two young brothers. It takes place in New York, Oxford, and Mexico.
  • Isaac and His Devils (1991): Set in rural New Hampshire, the novel's hero is Isaac Hooker, a half-deaf, half-blind, hugely fat and ambitious boy-genius and his struggle to fulfill his parents' blighted dreams.
  • When the Sons of Heaven Meet the Daughters of the Earth (1997): A portrait of the New York art world in the eighties.
  • The Furies (2003): Set in 1990s Manhattan
  • Rat (2010)

Nonfiction

Little Money Street (2008): Based on Eberstadt's six years in Perpignan's Gypsy community, in the South of France, and her friendship with one Gypsy family, each of whose children has chosen a quite different way of negotiating the conflicts between modernity and tribal belonging.

Reviewed by Judy Krueger

This review was originally published in June 2010, and has been updated for the March 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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