The Writer’s Cats by Muriel Barbery

charming | witty | beautifully illustrated

what it says on the cover …

A humorous and touching story that pays tribute to creativity, beauty, the poetry of the everyday, and to the ingenuity and sardonic humour of cats.

The Writer’s Cats tells the story of four felines, each with a very distinct personality. There’s Ocha, the leader of the gang, a tough guy with a soft heart; there’s bandy-legged, affectionate Mizu; there’s the phlegmatic and refined Petrus, lover of flowers; and finally there’s Kirin, narrator of this bewitching story.

Together, they have decided enough is enough! They deserve recognition for the assistance they have provided their owner over the years; they demand acknowledgement not as mere muses but as co-creators. Kirin, chuffed beyond measure to have been elected their representative in this important matter, will present their case.

Muriel Barbery, via her feline friends and this joyfully told story, takes readers into her atelier, offering a behind-the-scenes peek into the process and problems, joys and disappointments of one of today’s most beloved authors.

PUBLISHED: 9th November 2021
SHELF: Contemporary Fiction | Novella
AUTHOR: Muriel Barbery
ILLUSTRATOR: Maria Guitart
PUBLISHER: Europa Editions
FORMATS: Harback

Thank you to @EuropaEditions for kindly gifting me a finished hardback copy of #TheWritersCats by #MurielBarbery 
(note: this novel is published in the UK by @BelgraviaB)

my review

If the recent lockdowns have taught us one thing, it’s quite how involved cats wish to be in our home-working.  Even non cat owners can’t have missed the frequent nonchalant appearances of cats during interminable Skype meetings. As a cat fanatic, I’ve always embraced their contribution  in what I thought was a purely, albeit highly-sophisticated, R&R capacity.  Cats are, after all, masters of hedonistic self-appreciation and grandiose sprawling/preening/flirting* (delete as appropriate) .  But, having read this charming book, I’m now ashamed at my woeful underestimation.  It would appear that my ideas, actions and thoughts have never been entirely my own, and all this time I was being artfully coaxed and influenced by a be-whiskered force more powerful than I could comprehend.

At just eighty pages, this little book punches well above its weight.  It’s bursting with a charm I’ve come to love from this author, and this time with the addition of some beautiful accompanying illustrations that add a touch of grown-up magic.  

The Writer’s Cats is ostensibly a petition from Muriel’s beloved Chartreuse cats for greater recognition of their contribution to their author’s wonderful writing. They are quite pedantic, these cats, so they do like to make sure the reader is aware of the full details of their tale … and in so doing they draw the reader in to the daily routine of their writer.  It seems nobody in her inner circle has escaped the critical attentions of these felines; from the author’s husband to her editor, and even her confidant-friend … to describe their analyses as a character assassination would be perhaps a bit harsh, but each of these three individuals falls somewhat short of the cats’ required standards of authorly support. And the cats want to be purrfectly clear that it’s the shortcomings of these humans that’s led to the current state of affairs, leaving them no option but to provide impawtant editorial and inspirational services. 

I would describe The Writer’s Cats as an adoring homage by the author to her cherished cats.  And I have to say her cats are pretty special; their breed – the Chartreuse – is renowned for its companionable, loving nature, and you can’t help but fall in love with their sumptuous grey coats, rich copper eyes (all the better for seeing you with, my dear!), and rumbling purrs. They’re very similar to the British Shorthair (albeit less chunky); the breed of my own adored cats so I felt an immediate affinity with this lovely little novel.

You could argue I was easy prey for these particularly convincing kitties – after all, I’m the first to admit to full (and highly intellectual) conversations with my own cats – but this isn’t a book that only cat-owners / cat-lovers will enjoy.  The storytelling is full of character, and curiously bewitching, with observational critiques brimming with a distinctly cat-like vernacular making it all too easy to believe I’m reading the literary works of four-year-old Kirin. The Writer’s Cats is a pleasure of a book to read, a short, witty, and wonderfully fulfilling indulgence.

Expert modelling of The Writer’s Cats by my own furry-muse, Grace 💖
Max artfully ensuring I sent all emails in CAPSLOCK for the foreseeable 💗


author bio

photo from

Muriel Barbery is a French novelist and professor of philosophy. Her published works include the New York Times bestseller, The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Europa, 2008), Gourmet Rhapsody (Europa, 2009), The Life of Elves (Europa, 2016), and A Strange Country(Europa, 2020). She has lived in Kyoto, Amsterdam, and Paris, and now lives in the French countryside. 

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