Published by Gallic Press
Publication date – 19 October 2021
Source – review copy
Illustrations by Maria Guitart
Like so many writers, Muriel Barbery is a lover of cats. Grey-furred and amber-eyed (matching her home décor), Barbery’s four Chartreux cats keep her company as she works from her house in the French countryside, entertaining her with their quirks and foibles, inspiring her with their beauty, and soothing her nerves.
But that’s not all. For Kirin, Ocha, Mizu and Petrus – named after the writer’s love of all things Japanese, and, in true French style, of good wine – are no ordinary felines. These intelligent creatures have taken it upon themselves to guide their owner’s writing – flicking aside sections of her manuscript with a disdainful tail, pointing an approving paw at others. And it’s time these put-upon literary consultants got the recognition they deserve.
There are many books detailing the writing process of an author, though not that many that are told through the eyes of the said author’s cats. The reader is introduced to Muriel Barbery’s four Chartreux cats. The cats help by sitting on awkward passages that need re-writing, distract by demands to be fed, and console when their writer is seemingly despairing at her work.
The reader learns about a typical day, the routine of writing, the trials, tribulations and moments of doubt. The author’s love of Japan is discussed, the cats being named to reflect that, as it does for example in her novel A Single Rose.
Writing as if from the outlook of a beloved pet, Muriel Barbery allows the reader a slightly distanced insight into her professional life, whilst gently poking fun at herself in the process, showing she doesn’t always take herself so seriously.
The Writer’s Cats is not a long book, at 80 pages it is easy to read in one sitting. The prose is accompanied by lovely illustrations from Maria Guitart, which show the cats “helping”, the author’s home and her writing den.
This is a delightful, quirky look at the author’s writing process, told from an unexpected viewpoint.