27 April 2015

Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss

I’ve been a fan of Lynne Truss since I first read EATS, SHOOTS, & LEAVES. It’s actually one of my favorite books of all time, and certainly my favorite non-fiction. The combination of a topic I’m kind of a stickler about and Lynne Truss’s dry wit made it a memorable, hilarious read.

I enjoyed her next release, TALK TO THE HAND, just as much, and it was about that time that we in the US got a paperback anthology of her comic novels, which I read and enjoyed, though they were certainly different from anything else I’d read.

CAT OUT OF HELL, Truss’s newest release, is in the same vein as her comic novels: dark, sardonic, drily hilarious, and, in a strange way, both pessimistic and optimistic about human nature.

Using a semi-epistolary format—told in transcripts of interviews, emails, diary entries, descriptions of YouTube videos, and occasional traditional narration, CAT tells the story of Alec, a former librarian who just lost his wife and his job.

When Alec receives a series of documents about “Roger,” a talking cat, he’s drawn into a dark, frightening world of Satanism, murder, and evil cats—a world almost too bizarre to believe.

Truss does a great job putting a sinister twist on cat behaviors that we’re all familiar with (even if you’re a dog person like me): the kneading of laps, the hissing, the collecting of dead animals. Alec’s story weaves in Roger’s throughout, and we glimpse a twisted sort of feline Bildungsroman as Roger and his fellow cat, the Captain, set off across Europe, explore the world, and end up leading Alec to the startling truth about cats.

CAT OUT OF HELL was funny, light, quirky—all the things I love about Lynne Truss. It moved quite a bit faster than her earlier comic novels, but kept the same delightful sense of the absurd that I was so drawn to. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes British humor, hates cats, loves cats, or just wants to read something different.