PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Gray's reworking of the Animal Farm concept brings in a post-Thatcherite twist. Having peacefully co-existed with his friends Mouse and Rat (the latter carries a briefcase and wears Italian suits), the Cat's owners suddenly leave him to fend for himself. He then has to fall back on feline instincts, placating the furry packed lunches which surround him with promises of consumer goods and burrow ownership. A stylish and witty parable for the Nineties.
Irish-born Gray's third is a dark and amusing political allegory about Cat, Rat, and Mouse, and how they get along after the sudden death of the Professor, the owner of Chez Maupassant. Gray's second novel, The Political Map of the Heart, won the World One Day Novel Competition for being written in a 24-hour period at the Groucho Club in London. Although The Cat clearly took more than 24 hours to write, what it's about is less clear, apart from the fact that it's not as obvious as George Orwell's Animal Farm (which Mouse is reading). Perhaps it's about British politics or the collapse of Communism? In any case, after the Professor falls dead at the fridge, having stuffed himself with desserts, and lies like the statue of Ozymandias on the kitchen lino, his face lathered with whipped cream, Rat and Mouse climb over the body and invade the open fridge. Next day, Mrs. Professor has the body removed and later sells the house and moves out. Suddenly, the place is swept clean, and Rat, arising like a labor leader, tries to organize the house on new principles, without Cat having the top post. Mouse, a spineless intellectual, is Rat's assistant--until he gets fed up and disappears. While Rat organizes the garden creatures, Cat falls in with Tom, who finds every night a good night for girls. ""Pussy!"" he purrs with a low growl. Then Cat takes up television and learns to speak like a human to the house's new owner, Mrs. Digby. Eventually, Cat takes over again, asking, ""D'ye think Rat knows about accounts?"" Cat is back, in Mrs. Digby's lap, while Rat and Mouse turn gray like old pensioners. Gray's characters amuse in their parody of human beings, but not everyone will feel an urge to read secondary meanings into their trials.
Left in an empty house, the Cat--previously pampered with canned food and his owners' affection--learns to hunt again, much to the alarm of the intellectual Mouse and the proletarian, politically aware Rat. As Cat makes inroads into the garden (renting property to voles, for example, and thus discouraging their allegiance with those who would topple him), Mouse and Rat try to stave off the Cat's despotic rise. They discover the Cat's vulnerable area: he hungers not only for the deference of the various rodents he has cowed but also for the affection of humans that he once knew. Gray's satire thus at first seems to target the amorality of the ruling classes, only to turn its attention more squarely to capitalism--the hollow repast that never satisfies, the empty acquisition of material goods.