I’ve always been an old soul. I was the kid who liked to watch old films with her grandparents, borrowing their VHS tapes when Turner Classic Movies wasn’t enough. I listened to Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra at Christmas, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday the rest of the year. I practiced singing like Judy Garland.
So it makes sense that the books I like have an old soul feel. Where reading them is like sitting alone in an empty diner late at night, nursing a cup of terrible coffee. Reading them is like listening to a busker play the saxophone while you wait on the subway platform. Reading them is like sitting on your fire escape, singing “Moon River”.
Wait, that might be Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Marie-Helene Bertino’s 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas combines the stories of Madeleine (a smart ass 9-year-old who wants to be a jazz singer), Sarina (her recently divorced teacher), and Lorca (owner of jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas) as they spend December 23 and collide one fateful night at the club. And, as it should, the novel reads like a great jazz set.
What Intrigued Me: You had me at “smart-mouthed, precocious nine-year-old and an aspiring jazz singer.” Who wouldn’t want to root for this kid?
What Hooked Me: The book isn’t split up in conventional chapters. Each section has a time stamp, taking us through the hours and minutes of December 23, switching between main characters and minor characters, painting a tableau.
What Made Me Fall In Love: I mentioned how the novel itself reads like jazz, right? The chapters that follow Madeleine, Sarina, and Lorca are the melody, comforting and familiar. And suddenly it’ll flip to young psychopath Clare Kelly, or drummer Gray Gus, or even perpetually missing dog Pedro. That’s the improvisation, the solos where a musician will take their instrument through the paces. And it keeps you on your toes.
As all good art should.
2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas is available August 5 on Amazon and at your local purveyor of great art (also known as a bookstore). Get caught up in the rhythm today!