What I’ve Read: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino - Pre-order for release on August 5
This book is set in one day—Philadelphia on Christmas Eve Eve—and follows several different characters, including Madeleine, a nine-year-old aspiring jazz singer who recently lost her mother to cancer; Madeleine’s teacher Sarina; The Cat’s Pajamas club owner Lorca and his son Alex, and several others. Madeleine and Sarina are the most engaging and Madeleine’s feisty independence made her a fun character to spend time with. As the book gradually winds all the characters closer and closer together, they all benefit, becoming more important and interesting to the reader.
It’s a strange book to describe—the story is very literal at first, but it becomes fantastical or fairy tale-like at unexpected times. This felt a little off-putting while I was reading it. Now, about 12 hours after finishing the book, I think the fantastical elements were a good idea. The entire book feels a little magical, so what’s one more magical thing among the rest?
If you’re looking for a new book club read, this would be a fun option. (It’s also short and fast enough not to be a burden to club members who drag their toes.) It has plenty to talk about in terms of plot and characterization and there are a few passages in the book that are really, really delightful and worth marking to come back to later.
The best way I can think to describe this book is to tell you how I felt after reading it. Did you have a childhood movie or book that you would watch or read often? And it left with you this little warm feeling in your stomach that made you feel like everything in the world could be as fun and magical as what you just saw or read about? After turning the last page of 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas, I recognized the happy, contented feeling as one I’d had before: It was like the childishly optimistic, happy afterglow that would stick around after a favorite movie or book. I didn’t think 2 A.M. was the perfect book, but it did make me smile. That counts for a lot when it comes to books these days.
I received this advance review copy for free, but I’ll always write an honest review. Even if I hate it. Especially if I hate it! I love writing angry reviews.