There are all sorts of interesting things going on- descriptions of the restaurant business, antiques dealing, overseeing a building restoration, and even a venture which never becomes actualized but sounded interesting- making beauty products with grapefruit leaves. By far the most interesting character is a beastly little boy whose mother practically ignores him- he's discovered alcohol and buys or steals it whenever he can, dragging around his pet alley cat. He behaves hideously, but firmly attaches himself to Florent and his little family, somehow winning their affections and getting himself mixed up in all kinds of stuff. I was also intrigued by a character who was pretty much disparaged or pitied by all the others- a priest who had a passion for books, neglecting his duties and boring everyone with his quotations- it was obvious that reading was considered by the others an irresponsibly escapist pastime! Also the constant raging of a certain chef against American concoctions that he claimed were ruining culinary interests all over the world amused me.
This is a strange book. I almost put it down several times, but the story kept taking interesting turns, even though I couldn't always follow the intrigue. As events progressed it got more laughs out of me, and a lot of puzzlement as well. It's one of those books I might read again, just to see if I can figure it all out. The more I think about it, the more I actually like it.
The Alley Cat was originally published in French, it's been translated to English by Sheila Fischman.
Rating: 3/5 450 pages, 1981