Varjak Paw by S.F. Said


I picked up Varjak Paw mainly because it’s fully illustrated by Dave McKean. The illustrations are wonderful and there are PLENTY of them throughout the book. But I ended up not only enjoying the illustrations but enjoying the story as well.

Varjak Paw is a house cat, a Mesopotamian Blue. He lives with his mother and father and brothers and sisters and is by far the least popular of the family. Varjak has always loved hearing stories of the great Jalal, the “ancient one”, the first Mesopotamian Blue to come to America from what I gathered. His tales include stories of the outside world. Varjak and his family have never seen the outside world. They’ve never seen anything but the Contessa’s house that they live in and the backyard. Now, however, a new man has come into the house after the Contessa has disappeared and with him are two mysterious black cats that are up to no good. In order to get rid of them, someone is going to have to go to the outside world and find something called a “dog” that should scare the cats away. Varjak decides that he will take on this task.

We follow Varjak on his adventures as he first leaves his sheltered life and enters the outside world where he meets street cats and encounters the big city. He learns the ways of Jalal, the elder through dream sequences that add a very nice eastern philosophy touch to the book.

Overall, this was quite an enjoyable book and I’d recommend it to readers young and old. I have a couple of people that I think I’m going to buy this one for as a Christmas gift mainly for the Dave McKean illustrations which are really great! There’s a second book out in the Varjak Paw series as well. If you’re looking for another great review of this book, check out Nymeth’s!

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20 Responses

  1. Hi Chris,
    I loved this book too! The McKEan illustrations are perfect cat shapes – wonderful. I enjoyed the story immensely but parts of it seemed incredibly reminiscent of Jennie, by Paul Gallico. I couldn’t help but think most of way through that Gallico did it just that bit better. I thought the illustrations were its saviour in that respect! If you haven’t read it, I think you’d love it!

  2. Oops, double comment… I made a mess of your page! Sorry!

  3. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this one. It’s a good story. And I seriously do not tire of staring at the cover! You are definitely right that this would make a good Christmas gift.

  4. I can’t say I’ve read any books especially about cats.. i think it has something to do with living with 7 of them!

  5. Stormfilled, I haven’t heard of the Gallico book, but I’ll check it out! McKean did such a perfect job with all of the illustrations in this book, and I was surprised by how many of them there were! And don’t worry about double commenting, I do it all the time to other peoples pages πŸ˜‰

    Nymeth, I know, I love the cover of this one…I wish I had a hardcover version of it just for the cover…I have a flimsy paperback and the cover is bent 😦 It was the last one in the bookstore so I had to buy it like that…I’m going to get it for Megan off Amazon though in Hardcover…it’s like a McKean artbook and she loves his stuff!

    Deslily, Oh I think that you would LOVE this book!! Seriously, you should definitely read this one. Though you may be scared to be around your cats after you do, lol! You’ll be wondering what they’re saying to each other.

  6. I saw a review of this book on Nymeth’s blog, not too long ago. Sounds like a very enjoyable book!!

    I haven’t been reading very much lately. But I picked up I am the Messenger by Markus Zuzak yesterday, and was hooked immediately!! Maybe that’s how I will spend this chilly afternoon!!

    What in the world happend to LSU yesterday?? Of yeah, Darren McFadden! He really is great.

  7. Stephanie, The LSU game pissed me off so much! It ruined my night…I thought we’d beat McFadden after his 2 fumbles at the beginning of the game, but no! Our defense just looked lousy…they were running all over us. And I feel really bad for Flynn, he’s going to relive that last interception for the rest of his life, but damn it pissed me off! lol…

  8. ohhh, my baby boy’s been a writing again!!

    mo’ writin’.. mo’ writin’!!

  9. Deslily, Yep, I’ve been writing πŸ™‚ And I plan on doing more tonight in order to get all caught up! And I wanted to tell you, if you do want to read Varjak Paw, I think you’d be fine picking up the cheap paperback. It’s the size of a trade paperback for $5.99 and the print is nice and big!

  10. ok thanks for the information on that book… I have some books on their way to me.. and with xmas next month I think (no, I know!) I have to stop buying for myself till the holidays are past! lol slight delay lol..

  11. I recently read and reviewed both books and definitely recomend the follow up if you enjoyed this one/ The illustrations were lovely as well.

  12. Rhinoa, Very cool! I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel. I really liked this one and it would be worth it to read the sequel to me just for more McKean illustrations…gotta love those πŸ˜‰

  13. Great review, Chris! I’ve really got to read this one of these days. Annie absolutely loved it!

  14. Debi, You’d love it! It’s a quick read and the illustrations are great. They totally make the book πŸ™‚

  15. You should read the sequel! It’s as enjoyable (if not more so) than the first one. With more lovely drawings of Dave McKean of course.

  16. Lightheaded, I’ll definitely be reading the sequel! That seems to be the consensus, that the second one is certainly worth reading…and how can it not be when Dave McKean illustrated it πŸ˜‰

  17. Seems to me I saw a review of this on someone’s blog recently and they didn’t care for it, which disappointed me because I too love the cover and figure this is one I’ll pick up one day. Glad to hear a different, and positive, perspective on it.

  18. Carl, I really enjoyed it! Nymeth mentioned in her review that the author could have been a bit more subtle with his message that he was trying to convey, but overall I think she enjoyed it. That’s the only thing I’ve heard negative about the book and I’d agree with that somewhat, thought for a younger reader the book might work best as it is. But even if you hate the story this one’s worth it for the illustrations! They’re awesome!

  19. it sounds quite cool… and of course the mckean illustrations makes it even more enticing! πŸ™‚

  20. JP, I think you’d really like this one! Especially with all of your mom’s cats!

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