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Summary and book reviews of Rat by Fernanda Eberstadt

Rat

A Novel

by Fernanda Eberstadt

Rat
  • Critics' Opinion:

    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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About this Book

Book Summary

With Rat, Eberstadt has found a new setting she knows well, the South of France, and the story she tells is original, powerful, and heartrending—about a child’s search for a father she has never known.

Of The Furies, Fernanda Eberstadt’s last novel, Alexandra Jacobs wrote in the New York Observer that it “veers pretty close to genius . . . Eberstadt is an expert, sensual, and at times truly breathtaking conjurer of New York City.” With Rat, Eberstadt has found a new setting she knows well, the South of France, and the story she tells is original, powerful, and heartrending—about a child’s search for a father she has never known.

Rat is fifteen-year-old Celia Bonnet, who lives with her unmarried mother, Vanessa, a free-spirited local beauty, in a farmhouse compound with other single-parent families in the Pyrénées Orientales, a gorgeous but forlorn Mediterranean no-man’s-land just north of the Spanish Catalan border. Rat is the result of a one-night encounter between Vanessa and Gillem, the son of a London model from the 1960s, who used to spend summers in the area and whom Rat has never spoken to or met. But when Vanessa’s current boyfriend starts preying on Morgan, the orphaned nine-year-old who is Rat’s adopted brother, she decides to take Morgan and run away to her father in London. As the novel unfolds, the two children undertake a difficult journey to find the man who might finally explain to Rat who she is and where she belongs.

This is an enthralling novel with a luminous sense of place—both physical and emotional—and, at its core, a bold, engaging young heroine for our times.

Excerpt
Rat

The first time she is conscious of seeing her mother—whom she’d thought as much a part of herself as the scar on her forehead or her broken front tooth—judged by a stranger’s eyes.

Vanessa is taking Rat and the neighbors’ kids to the beach. To get to the beach from their place, you have to cross a highway. It’s not a megahighway—there are only two lanes—but it’s the kind of dead-straight, flat-as-a-pancake, five-kilometer stretch where drivers like to pretend they’re practicing for the Paris–Dakar. There’s a culvert that runs under the highway, which is where you are supposed to cross, but after it’s rained, the tunnel goes knee-deep in black mud. So Vanessa has made the kids scramble up the embankment, and now is urging them across the road.

There’s nothing hurried about Rat’s mother’s approach: she is strolling right into the threat of fast traffic, willing any oncoming cars to halt. Solenne...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

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.   (Reviewed by Judy Krueger).

Full Review Members Only (719 words).

Media Reviews
The New Yorker

The novel transcends its rags-to-riches formula, thanks to its fierce, openhearted heroine…Eberstadt creates a captivating portrait of how people living hand-me-down lives, laden with objects and personal histories, start to write stories of their own.

The New York Times - Cathleen Medwick

…shrewd and sensuous…Eberstadt is at her stylistic best when ranging through a "semiclandestinely inhabited" landscape of artichoke fields with sere gray leaves and "purplish bruise-colored" fruit, of electric skies over ratty storefront churches and glittering seas.

Booklist

[T]he plainspoken, direct prose and the beautiful storytelling combine to produce a novel that is mythic, gritty, and unforgettable.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [A] powerful modern legend in which a drug dealer can be a fairy godmother and the handsome prince may turn out to be your father....amid the thorns and crumb trails is a portrait of a childhood lived freely, the dangers weighed against its potential for adventure.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A mature, intelligent and unusually perceptive study of the paradoxes of belonging to others, and being oneself - Eberstadt's best novel yet.

Author Blurb Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Lark and Termite
Fernanda Eberstadt’s dazzling Rat is a contemporary French fairy tale in which a fifteen year old Cinderella named Rat relies on her own goodness and grit to join the disparate halves of her unlikely, charmed, and difficult life. Eberstadt's beautifully written tour de force touches on children parenting parents, abandonment and bravery, the ragtag legacy of the 60's, modern terror, and the fact that, sometimes, in response to valiant effort, things still go miraculously right. Eberstadt is savvy and uncompromising, and Rat is wonderfully alive.

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The Winds of the Pyrenees Orientales

"The Pyrenees-Orientales is the Command Center of winds. Here they all congregate, quarrel, barter and rule. There are said to be 119 different winds in the Pyrenees-Orientales. (If you could sell wind we'd be rich, people used to say in the days before the foothills got sown with rows of gigantic new turbines, without bringing a marked improvement to anybody's fortunes."

p.27 of Rat.

Here are five of those winds:

The Tramontane:  Dry, cold and often violent, carrying air from polar regions. In summer it brings clear blue skies and relief from the heat.  In winter it just brings cold air. If the weather over the Mediterranean Sea is perturbed the Tramontane can cause heavy rain: Quan plou ...

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