Cover Image: Cat Brushing

Cat Brushing

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Member Reviews

Thanks to Netgalley and Grove Press for the ARC of this! 

The cover drew me in and the premise, short stories about the sexuality of older female protagonists, sounded intriguing. Some of these stories pushed too far for me, over into disturbing, but some were quite interesting. As they were all quite fast, I’m glad I pushed through to the ones I enjoyed slightly more, but I never really got past that. I liked that the genres of the stories felt distinct, as did all the protagonists and their worlds.
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Cat Brushing by Jane Campbell
Pub Date: 8/16
🐈🐈🐈/5

Thank you to @netgally and @groveatlantic for an ARC of this debut book by Jane Campbell. If I can summarize this entire book into only a few words it would be this: You can do anything that you set your mind to. Cat Brushing is Jane’s debut novel at the young age of 80! 
This debut is compromised of a series of short stories about elder women and the roles that others have played in their lives. I found the stories to be provocative and enchanting. I love how the author tells it like it is and does not sugar coat anything. Jane does a great job of exploring the parts and details of our lives that are in other words, hidden from plain sight. If you enjoy reading short stories, definitely check this one out. It is unlike anything that I have ever read.
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This one was not for me. I am not usually a fan of short stories but it sounded interesting and I wanted to give this a try.  Alas, DNF.  Thanks for the opportunity to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic.
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CAT BRUSHING is a well-written story collection that deftly explores what it means to be an aging human and how society treats elderly citizens. The author does a lovely job of fleshing out these characters and the stories have an elegant feel to them. Recommended for fans of literary fiction.
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I suspect this collection of stories about 13 "mature" women will resonate more with older readers, who might well recognize themselves or part of themselves in more than one of the tales.  Campbell, herself 80. explores the lives of women of a certain age and their need for connection, especially touch but also emotional. There's also concern about the loss of agency, the possibility of being left behind, having a pet (the cat) taken, and a bit of judgment.  Read these one at a time and reflect on how we view our older population, especially women.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  An interesting collection for short story fans.
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I am not usually a fan of short story collections by design. It’s an almost impossible to task to be completely captivated and enthralled by every single one of them, especially when there is 13 of them. However, I’ve left this book with a new perspective, it doesn’t matter the ones that didn’t work but more so the ones that did. Some of them were so impactful that I doubt will leave my mind anytime soon. I just finished this book and I already wish to revisit my favorite stories in order to keep them well stocked in my mind. Another point that I think makes it unique is that every single story is told from the perspective of an older woman, I wish this was more common than it is, but right now it’s very refreshing and interesting. 
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an arc for this book!
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The author writes so lyrically the story the characters come alive.I was swept right into the collection from the opening story.The point of you of older women is rare in literature and this book has so many gems.#netgalley #groveatlantic
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There are a couple of reasons this debut book by Jane Campbell is noteworthy. One is because she will be 80 years old when it is published in August. Second, and most importantly, it is simply a wise, witty and wonderfully written collection of stories examining and honoring women’s full lives as elders. Campbell’s fresh, vivid prose challenges stereotypes about older women and illustrates the reality that is full, fun, sexy, liberatory, complex and contains multitudes.
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This is an entertaining collection of short stories. Some of these stories are beautiful and others are also very moving. The stories are based around the lives of older women. Their wants and their sexual desires are often forgotten which is very sad. The story of Miffy and Sarah is the tale of an older woman who falls in love with her young carer. They begin a relationship which ends with the death of Sarah. It may have happened or was it the fantasy of a dying woman. You have to make up your own mind. 
All of the stories are well written and give a voice to an almost forgotten group of women. This is the first book by Jane Campbell and I look forward to more stories from her. She is an author to look out for.
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Extremely thankful to NetGalley and Grove Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Jane Campbell´s debut book is a great collection of short stories. It is a warm and tender but also raw exploration of elder women. In a very Simone de Beauvoirish style (or intention?), Campbell dignifies elders lives, she gives them a voice, a purpose and importance. She uses a captivating style prose that holds a connection between the reader and the narrator which enforces the sentiment of each story. With that being said, this collection does not try to romanticize what is like to being old, but rather showcases the rawness of such experience with a lot of imagination (some dystopian). She takes it to the limit and gives the reader a wonderful time while also not traspàssing the line of what it is implicating. What I liked the most about this collection is that the author truly understood the difference between the object of our imagined desire (as women) and the reality of our own pleasure. Each story tried its best to be different and have a sense of impact, which I believe she achieved. However, this 'impact' is not as shocking as you might believe, it is life, beautiful, ugly, horrifying, tender, strange...just life.

''There is only one solution if old age is not to be an absurd parody of our former life, and that is to go on pursuing ends that give our existence a meaning.'' -De Beauvoir
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CAt Brushing
by Jane Campbell 
Pub Date: August 9, 2022
Grove Press
Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the ARC of this book. 
Cat Brushing, the provocative first book of stories by Jane Campbell, vigorously explores the sensual worlds of thirteen older women, unearthing their passions, libidinal appetites, integrity, and sense of self as they fight against prevalent misconceptions and stereotypes of the aging.
Unfortunately, these stories fell flat for me.  I will not be recommending this book or purchasing it for our library. 
3 stars
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3.5
The author's acknowledgements state the shock created with publishing at age 80 instead of passing into dotage. The stories in this collection share some of that shock-value.

Inventive and yet not particularly enjoyable, the multi-genre stories range from surreal and horror to alt future (a standout is the story of 'fantasms' for people who were alone during the pandemic height). Campbell's writing forces the reader to confront mortality alongside the characters. She has nimbly created a zoo of wild-spirited, often treacherous protagonists whose interior life are stereotype-defying--noted through cruelty, odd eroticism, and punches of truth.

The stories are most affecting when using straight narrative to expose the inequities of aging and meditations on life reflected from its end. "To be alone you need to need someone who is absent." Sentences like this, within the context of the story and beyond, provoke rereading to consider their truth against the readers' experience.

Perhaps with any story collection, there's unevenness. This collection provoked my thoughts, often uncomfortable ones. For that, it may be worth your reading time.

Thank you Grove Atlantic for the copy via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Thirteen short stories which I read with awe and surprise attacks!
a collection of stories about elderly women, focusing particularly on their sexual and romantic lives. Campbell’s prose is strong and I enjoyed the observational style. Ultimately, though, these stories are overwhelmingly flat to me -
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A neat story - a debut collection by an author who is turning 80 this year - and a cool premise - a collection of stories about elderly women, focusing particularly on their sexual and romantic lives. Campbell’s prose is strong and I enjoyed the observational style. Ultimately, though, these stories are overwhelmingly flat to me - the character work and narrative tension just isn’t there. A lot of the stories have similar endings, and that ending itself confuses me in terms of its implications. I’m sad this one just didn’t really work for me. The titular story is the best by far. I would love to see Campbell do something more long form and I would be open to reading more of her work in the future.
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Oh Jane Campbell, you have my heart entirely. I want to be just like you when I grow up!!! 

Reading through these prose; you’ll feel uncomfortable at first, than it’ll register with you how utterly human this entire novel is. Life has these thoughts that on the surface feel a bit taboo or strange, but life is exotic and sexual and to be full of feeling. This collection of stories leaves the reader swept in the beauty of Campbell’s words but also knocks your heart out at the end of every story. 

This book was such a surprising favourite of mine, I can’t take any stars away. This is a triumph, and the acknowledgements just had my smiling. Jane Campbell is WONDERFUL!
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Thank you to NetGalley, Grove Atlantic, and Jane Campell for providing me with the opportunity to read Cat Brushing before publication.

Reading this collection of short stories was a privilege. I devoured it in one evening and remained completely engrossed until the very last word of the Author’s Acknowledgments (readers, don’t skip this section! You’ll want to gobble up every syllable Campbell serves). 

The prose reads as if the author has been perfecting her craft over decades of experience and yet the astonishing fact remains this is, somehow, Campbell’s debut novel. She writes with expert confidence, impressive literary skill, and haunting nuance.

Each story in the collection whizzes by and yet feels fully formed. Some stories may resonate emotionally more with a particular reader than others but each elicits a thought-provoking, powerful reaction. The dystopian “Lockdown Fantasms” stands out as my personal favourite.

Loved every second, eagerly awaiting more from Jane Campell. 5 Stars.
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I'm a prose lover and this book offers a prose to be cherished. It is sexy, cool, witty while also being inviting and warm. I don't know how the writer is capable of so much expression through words on a page. I love this book and will be gifting it to all the women in my life.
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In the Acknowledgements at the end, author Jane Campbell says of writing Cat Brushing, "I must wholeheartedly thank my four children who have generously accepted the fact that their mother, rather than entering a simple and trouble-free dotage, has rather inappropriately at the age of eighty become the published author of these provocative and transgressive stories."I had no idea until that point that this was a debut collection (at eighty!); nothing in the writing feels amateur or unpractised. This collection is comprised of thirteen stories, each from the POV of a different elderly woman (and while each of them seems to be a white, well off British woman, that’s pretty much all the characters have in common; there is breadth here), and while primarily focussing on memory (and its loss), love (and its loss), and making new beginnings (even at an advanced age; even against one’s will), these stories nearly all contain lust and sex (if only in yearning memory) and passions that surprise even the women feeling them. Provocative and transgressive, indeed. Characters express deep sadness, unexpected joy, homicidal rage, and moments of elegiac contemplation (and especially when brushing one's cat; not a euphemism). Settings range from England to Bermuda to Africa, even to a near future where technology is being developed to deal with the old people. This is not a long read but I felt compelled to pause after each story to savour and think about it before turning to the next; I am delighted to have had an early chance to read this collection and I do hope Ms Campbell is hard at work writing a dozen more stories; I’d read’em.
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As an older woman, I was looking forward to stories from the lives of other older women. A few were interesting- the title story of a woman's contemplative relationship with her cat, developing feelings for one's caretaker in final years. I found most of the other stories reminiscing of past youth not engaging.
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Thirteen short stories which I read with awe and surprise attacks!

I say (and this collection) says not to think too much when you are getting old. You will know why. Just read this collection.

I am telling you the writing will make you want to read each and every word what it has to offer. Each story has a different flavour. The touch of emotions and a surprise element in each will make you appreciate what the author is trying to tell or express. 

Susan and Miffy 4 🌟(surprised and surprised)

The Scratch 3 🌟 (this one will give me nightmares...)

Cat Brushing 4 🌟 (if you are a cat person, you will love this but also your heart will be broken too)

Lamia 5 🌟 (the most beautiful story here!)

Lockdown Fantasms 4 🌟 (hard not to relate)

Lacrimate Rerum 4 🌟 (my poor heart...cry...)

Schopenhauer And I 5 🌟 (am I surprised?!)

Kindness 4 🌟 (well, this will haunt you)

Le Mot Perdu 5 🌟 (my absolute favourite!)

183 Minutes 3 🌟 (terrifying...)

The Kiskadee 4 🌟 (just beautiful!)

The Question 4 🌟 (the pain is real)

On Being Alone 5 🌟 (another absolute favourite!)

Refreshing and liberating!

Thank you, Grove Atlantic, for the advance reading copy.
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