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Muse's Books

Book 131: Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss

Book 131: Cat Out of Hell.
Author: Lynne Truss, 2014.
Genre: Black Comedy. Horror. Magical Realism.

Other Details: Hardback. 240 pages. Unabridged Audio (5 hours, 13 mins) Read by Mike Grady.

The scene: a cottage on the coast on a windy evening. Inside, a room with curtains drawn. Tea has just been made. A kettle still steams. Under a pool of yellow light, two figures face each other across a kitchen table. A man and a cat.

The story about to be related is so unusual yet so terrifyingly plausible that it demands to be told in a single sitting. The man clears his throat, and leans forward, expectant. 'Shall we begin?' says the cat ...
- synopsis from author's website.

I totally adored this short novel even though in it cats are cast as minions of the Devil. After all this is a horror novel, produced under the Hammer Horror imprint, even if a comic one .However, over time the ability of cats to do evil has diminished. As one character reflects: "They get all the best seats in the house, they have food and warmth and affection. Everything is on their terms, not ours. They come and go as they please. Why aren’t they permanently ecstatic? Well, now it’s explained. It’s because they’re conscious of having lost their ability to do serious evil, and they feel bloody humiliated."

Whether someone loves cats, as I do, or hates and mistrusts them this novel has a lot to recommend it. There are also quite a few Sherlock Holmes references given that retired librarian Alex has a beloved dog that he and his late wife have named Watson in tribute. The presence of a talking cat as well as a giant black cat reminded me of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita and I noted that this modern classic of Russian literature had been mentioned by a number of newspaper reviews for Cat Out of Hell.

It's pure fun while still keeping with the tropes of horror fiction with plenty of charm and wit. I loved it enough to both read the print edition and also listen to its audio release. It was adapted by BBC Radio 4 as a Book at Bedtime in March 2014.
Tags: animals, audio book, comedy, magical realism, satire

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