Carbonel by Barbara Sleigh

Carbonel: The King of the Cats by Barbara Sleigh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When it is a hot day, we turn to the shadows and we read the books. I had prepared for this day with a visit to the library, picking things that I thought might be in my wheelhouse and things that I had been meaning to read for some while and yet never got around to it. Carbonel has been on my radar for some time and so when I spotted it, I grabbed. I like the way that libraries do that sometimes; they give you the things that you did not quite mean to get and yet knew you always wanted.

Carbonel is a cat and he is under a spell. The spell must be broken by Rosemary who, in trying to find extra money to bring home to her impoverished mother, finds herself embroiled in mysterious and magical goings on. What I liked, however, was how immediate and everyday this magic was. There’s something very particularly British (and very particularly mid-twentieth century British) about magic being found on your doorstep. There’s also something very particular about a slightly sarcastic and curmudgeonly magical chum. I love it. Give me a slightly stroppy partner in crime who will do anything for their friend and I’m there.

There’s something very classic and confident about this, Sleigh’s debut. She’s clearly familiar with what it takes to write a story but also, I think, in what it takes to read a story. This is so reader friendly. The chapters are self-contained and deeply satisfying in their own right and although a more modern audience might be unfamiliar with some of the vocabulary of the time, it’s written so tightly that the reader just rolls along with it.

I liked this a lot. It’s just such a classy, solid story and such lovely stuff. What more does a book need to do?

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