by Fernanda Eberstadt
3.3 3


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Rat 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gavin_F More than 1 year ago
This not very complex novel is about family love but also about the destructiveness of families. It's about interracial warfare but also about how easily human relationships can transcend race. "Rat" is 15-year old shoeless Celia Bonnet -- and make that "Bonnet" sound like "Bonnay" in your head, because this is the South of France. Not the Riviera of film festivals and fabulous yacht parties, but the far more raffish beaches as far to the South West as you can get without hearing Spanish. The characters are more likely to be dealing drugs than baccarat cards. In nearby Perpignan, daily battles between immigrants and natives keep the scorching city on edge, and the schools all have metal detectors at their entrances. No wonder Rat is pissed off. She's the product of a one-night stand between her French junk-dealing mother and a wealthy English artist. The conception part of the encounter seems to have been deliberate on the part of the mother, and Gillem, the resentful father, pays child support by standing order and shuns further contact. Rat is told only that he's English and the son of a very famous and very glamorous model. Rat has informally adopted nine year old Morgan as a younger brother. Arabic, the son of another single mother who died of AIDS, Morgan is football crazy but also familiar with the electronic marvels of our age. You feel him shrug with resignation as he follows Rat on whatever crazy exploit she cares to dream up. It's summer, the restaurants are full of sunburned tourists and life on the polluted beaches is free. The central event in the book is the sexual molestation of Morgan by another passing lover of Rat's mother. Rat witnesses it, but her mother refuses to believe it. The way the author describes the impact of this affront is very true to life, I think. If her French family appears feckless, Rat thinks, perhaps my father's family has some feck. She proceeds to locate Gillem by -- what else? -- Google, and announces to Morgan that they're off to London. They arrive precisely on page 191 of this 293-page work, and the last third -- perhaps what the author thought of as the heart of the book -- is the impact of these two urchins on an upper middle class intellectual family in West London. I won't say more than that Morgan's football talents go down surprisingly well, and that Rat gets involved in the London underground bombings of July 2005 -- a late reminder that race relations are a theme of the book. It's put-downable, this book. I lost no sleeping hours beacause of it. It did make me think a bit, however. The author is obviously very familiar with both settings and, I surmise, more admiring of life as it's lived in French Catalonia than in Westbourne Park. The dialog is easy to read but you have to keep reminding yourself that these people -- even the Londoners -- are really speaking French. The author could have made more of this, I think, perhaps weaving some French idiom into the English. Buy it and enjoy it unless family dynamics give you the screaming ab-dabs. Let's face it -- they have that effect on too many of us.