And so Rob’s reading eyes turn to the next book on the never-decreasing book pile and this is one I’m really rather excited about. It’s a debut novel by Jayne Joso, Soothing Music For Stray Cats (Alcemi), and it came to me one day from a totally unexpected source, and as soon as I laid eyes on it I instantly fell for it.
I really must have fallen for it big style because I’ve already featured Soothing Music For Stray Cats in two separate Daily Bookshots already (HERE and HERE), but that was more to do with the sublime cover art (the work of Japanese artist Hioki Godengi) than the book itself. That’s not to say that I’m not interested in the story – far from it. On a deeper level the story has really piqued my interest, not least because of the eclectic nature of the themes that it promises to explore. Here’s the complete blurb (which may include minor spoilers):
Mark’s best friend, Jim, has just jumped from the twentieth floor. Mark walks out of his own life and heads for London; dreams of songwriting, and the rhythms of better living drumming gently in his mind.
He soon finds himself flat-sitting for a supposed friend from the past, and on grief’s low-battery setting, often cold and underfed, he drifts through a familiar yet sometimes alienating London cityscape. Using music and literature to help him make sense of things, and spurred on by guilt at failing to save his friend, Mark decides to keep a benevolent eye on three young lads he encounters, Joe, Mike and Bono. These ‘Three Musketeers’ challenge perceptions of British ‘hoodie youth culture’ through acts of kindness of their own. When Mark and the boys finally meet Japanese student, Kazu – nervous, and Samurai obsessed – their worlds are changed forever.
Flooded with warmth and humanity, this debut novel looks at friendship, altruism, songwriting and Samurai philosophy.
So make of that blurb what you will. It’s certainly got me hooked. But just as much as I’m interested in Soothing Music for Stray Cats for its story, I’m also intrigued by its author, Jayne Joso, who really does comes across as a dynamic and colourful character.
Although Jayne Joso now spends much of her time between London and Wales, she’s spent a period of her life living and working in Japan and China. When I spoke to her briefly a few weeks ago she told me that the Orient is very important to her. It must be! Did you notice that one of the principle characters mentioned in the synopsis is Japanese, with an obsession for Samurai philosophy? (I know it doesn’t exactly say that but I’m putting 2 and 2 together, and hopefully getting 4). Surely Jayne’s own passion for the Orient is shining through here, and it’s always an exciting reading prospect when an author’s personal passion is infused into the fabric of the story.
Jayne is also heavily into architecture, and has written extensively about it (including in Architecture Today magazine), so I’m also interested in finding out just how much of her passion for architecture has found its way into the story as well. Actually, thinking about I guess you could say that architecture plays a major part in the opening of the novel, what with poor old Jim leaping out of that twentieth-floor window 🙂
So anyway, exciting reading ahead it would seem, and I’m really looking forward to it. As usual I’ll be back when I’m done to offer up my afterthoughts, and in the meantime you can follow my progress through my Reading Journal, where I’ll offer intermittent comments and updates. Meantime do pop along to Jayne’s official site, and if you’ve got the time, there’s also this recent interview conducted by Mark Thwaite over at the Book Depository (note: I’ve not read this yet just in case there are any spoilers. Probably not but I’m not taking any chances :))
Alcemi | 01 May 2009 | £9.99 | PAPERBACK | 199 PP | ISBN: 9780955527258
A note about Forethoughts
‘Forethoughts’ offer an insight into what my initial thoughts and impressions of a book are, before I begin reading it. Informal, and largely written as a stream-of-consciousness exercise in a single sitting, my ‘forethoughts’ capture an important stage of the reading experience for me – the anticipatory period before the book is first opened, when my excitement is piqued for the reading experience which lies ahead.
Blissfully ignorant my ‘forethoughts’ may be, but when they’re combined with my eventual ‘afterthoughts’, the result is a unique and comprehensive record of a very personal literary ‘journey’ through a particular book; a literary journey which will hopefully be of some value to other readers.