Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Firmin by Sam Savage **Review**

Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife by Sam Savage
Series: No
Pages: 230
Publisher: Orion
Release Date (this edition): 26th March 2009
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Goodreads synopsis:
"I had always imagined that my life story...would have a great first line: something like Nabokov's 'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins;' or if I could not do lyric, then something sweeping like Tolstoy's 'All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.'... When it comes to openers, though, the best in my view has to be the first line of Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier: 'This is the saddest story I have ever heard.'"

So begins the remarkable tale of Firmin the rat. Born in a bookstore in a blighted 1960's Boston neighborhood, Firmin miraculously learns how to read by digesting his nest of books. Alienated from his family and unable to communicate with the humans he loves, Firmin quickly realizes that a literate rat is a lonely rat.

Following a harrowing misunderstanding with his hero, the bookseller, Firmin begins to risk the dangers of Scollay Square, finding solace in the Lovelies of the burlesque cinema. Finally adopted by a down-on-his-luck science fiction writer, the tide begins to turn, but soon they both face homelessness when the wrecking ball of urban renewal arrives.

In a series of misadventures, Firmin is ultimately led deep into his own imaginative soul-a place where Ginger Rogers can hold him tight and tattered books, storied neighborhoods, and down-and-out rats can find people who adore them.

I have waited a long time to finally sit down to read this one. It was a Christmas present from my parents two or three years ago, but I kept saying that I was going to save it, and didn't want to read it yet, but the day just never arrived when I decided to read it. So after finishing my last book, I was attempting to decide what to read next and I saw it sitting there, lonely on the shelf, and finally picked it up. It wasn't quite what I was expecting it to be, but I'm glad I did all the same.

I know others that have struggled with this book. The style that it has been written in is fairly elaborate in places, so I can see why they found it difficult to get into. I think the reason I didn't struggle with this is because of my degree - I'm so used to reading literature with much more elaborate language than this - and having to be able to discuss it. I think I'm just a little more practiced with this kind of style, so, in a way, I'm glad I left it for this long to read it.
The language, although elaborate (or 'flowery' as I've heard it described) is still very interesting - especially as it is supposed to be the language of a rat.
I have definitely never read anything quite as unique as this novel. Firmin, the rat, is a character like no other. He almost reminds me of a middle-aged, grumpy, lonely, slightly perverted and yet still fairly amiable character from a 'cult' fiction novel. Just when you're starting to love him, the 'strange old man' side of his character comes out to play and makes you slightly wary. Although, in a way, I suppose this made his character, oddly enough, just a little more human, which of course, is what he dreams of being.

As a lover of literature, the story really spoke to me. The passages about Firmin and his love of literature were wonderful - especially when describing the flavours of each novel, which made me laugh - particularly Jane Eyre, which according to Firmin, tastes like Lettuce (although I hope not, as this is my challenge read for 2012)! I always think of myself as 'devouring' a novel when I read it - but Firmin does this when reading and literally. This is also quite clever because, as a rat, Firmin obviously can't communicate like a human can, so the act of eating the books is 'putting words into his mouth', so to speak. So the novel is definitely amusing in its own way.

I'm not quite sure who I would recommend this novel to specifically. I would definitely urge any lover of literature to give it a go, but it's not a usual 'light read', and I suppose takes a certain level of concentration.
I would definitely recommend that anyone who has a further education in English should read it - the style is a real delight that I think these people would particularly enjoy.
If you like the look of the book from the synopsis though - give it a go! You may be pleasantly surprised!


kimba88 said...

great review..I am glad you finally read it. Sometimes you just have to be in the mood.

Pen to Paper said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the review. Have I convinced you to give it a go?
It's definitely a unique and rewarding read!

I agree that you do have to be in the mood sometimes. Although, I don't think I've ever not been in the mood for this one, I've just been waiting for the ideal time to pick it up, if you know what I mean?

:) Dani.

oriana said...

i like the fact that the book talk about love of literature and the fact that is a mouse,,its kinf of funny...
thanks for the review

IdentitySeeker said...

This is the first I've heard of this book and I'm so glad I did.Being a lover of literature myself, I can say that the synopsis alone had me hooked. I appreciate your review and I will definitely be adding this to my to-read list.

Sarah Bibi Setar

Ellie said...

I adored this book! To start with I was wondering where on earth it was going, but after a while I really settled into the language and the life of the little rat and in the end I LOVED it! So much to speak to a lover of books, and I got really teary a couple of times reading about Firmin's desperate desire to be accepted by humans. I'm so glad you enjoyed it too!

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