Monday, 10 November 2014

The Story of Fester the Cat - Paul Magrs (Penguin US, 2014)

Spin-offs.  Those stories where what looked like a subsidiary character suddenly moves to centre stage and becomes the star.  I love them.   Frasier spinning out of Cheers, Mork and Mindy emerging from Happy Days, Torchwood springin…well, maybe not all spin offs after all.

The Story of Fester the Cat is, however, the first spin-off in real life that I've come across.  It helps that I knew Fester, and was well aware that this was a cat so full of personality that he could easily move out of the shadows of the boys he chose to let live with him and dominate proceedings.  But this book is so much more than a simple memoir, unexpectedly told form the point of view of a cat.

It's also the warmest of love stories, and the story of the creation of a family.  It's about the author's love for his partner (the grumpier of the two of them apparently), and of their home (full of comfortingly dusty corners and piles of interesting stuff).  It's about loss and anger and pain, and adventures, and fun, and frolics.  It's about shenanigans.

But what's it like to read?  Well, I read the first section, in which Fester, sick and tired and feeling every moment of his 18 years slips away (not, he is keen to point out, to anything as stupid sounding as a rainbow bridge) on a train from Manchester to Edinburgh, on the day that Maggie Thatcher died.  the word of the ex-PM's death spread through the carriages like wildfire, but I - who spent years waiting for the hideous old crone to snuff it - couldn't have cared less as big, fat, thankfully silent tears ran down my face.  It's that good, and that sad, and that beautiful and affirming - it made a middle aged Scotsman cry in public.

But it's not all doom and gloom.  Fester stuck up a tree in the back garden, or trying to eat a frog, the boys having conniptions as Fester opens his mouth and a tiny baby bird squeaks indignantly from between his one and half teeth, Bessy the Big Bollocked Stray…there's plenty in here to make you laugh, and all of it told from what is unmistakably and unflinchingly the viewpoint of Fester, not Paul or Jeremy.

In fact, I could happily read spin-offs from Fester's life too - 'The Tale of Bessy under the Arches', sy, or 'Adventures with Korky in Cheshire'.

Or, perhaps best of all - and what Fester I think would have wanted - more stories about Paul and Jeremy and what they did next...

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