By Fernanda Eberstadt
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307271839, 304pp.)
Publication Date: March 30, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
Of The Furies, Fernanda Eberstadt’s last novel, Alexandra Jacobs wrote in the New York Observer that it “veers pretty close to genius . . . Eberstadt is an expert, sensual, and at times truly breathtaking conjurer of New York City.” With Rat, Eberstadt has found a new setting she knows well, the South of France, and the story she tells is original, powerful, and heartrending—about a child’s search for a father she has never known.
Rat is fifteen-year-old Celia Bonnet, who lives with her unmarried mother, Vanessa, a free-spirited local beauty, in a farmhouse compound with other single-parent families in the Pyrénées Orientales, a gorgeous but forlorn Mediterranean no-man’s-land just north of the Spanish Catalan border. Rat is the result of a one-night encounter between Vanessa and Gillem, the son of a London model from the 1960s, who used to spend summers in the area and whom Rat has never spoken to or met. But when Vanessa’s current boyfriend starts preying on Morgan, the orphaned nine-year-old who is Rat’s adopted brother, she decides to take Morgan and run away to her father in London. As the novel unfolds, the two children undertake a difficult journey to find the man who might finally explain to Rat who she is and where she belongs.
This is an enthralling novel with a luminous sense of place—both physical and emotional—and, at its core, a bold, engaging young heroine for our times.
Fernanda Eberstadt is the author of four previous novels and one book of nonfiction. Her essays and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Commentary. She lives in London with her husband and two children.
“Fernanda Eberstadt’s dazzling Rat is a contemporary French fairy tale in which a fifteen year old Cinderella named Rat relies on her own goodness and grit to join the disparate halves of her unlikely, charmed, and difficult life. Eberstadt’s beautifully written tour de force touches on children parenting parents, abandonment and bravery, the ragtag legacy of the 60’s, modern terror, and the fact that, sometimes, in response to valiant effort, things still go miraculously right. Eberstadt is savvy and uncompromising, and Rat is wonderfully alive.”
—Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Lark and Termite
“That fugitive grace, that rag-picking of hope from ruin, resurfaces in Eberstadt’s shrewd and sensuous fifth novel, Rat . . . Eberstadt is at her stylistic best when ranging through a “semiclandestinely inhabited” landscape of artichoke fields with sere gray leaves and “purplish bruise-colored” fruit, of electric skies over ratty storefront churches and glittering seas.”
—Cathleen Medwick, The New York Times Book Review