With summer now upon us I like to indulge in some lightweight reading when on my holidays. I tend to leave the serious, thought-provoking or intense books at home and delve into a little literary froth that doesn't require much concentration. My colleagues and I have a book swap at work and I think that was how I ended up with a copy of Cat by Freya North. The book was originally published in 1999.
I did not realise that there are other books to accompany this one which relate the Cats sisters and they certainly do not need to be read in order as this was a successful stand alone title.
Cat (Catriona McCabe) is a 28 year old journalist who has been given the opportunity to provide reports on the Tour de France. As a keen cycling fan she is delighted to be able to indulge her passion for the great race and hopes to leave her relationship disaster behind her as she heads to her new adventure. After a lonely start she soon finds friends amongst the journalists, the team crew and even the peloton itself. The Tour de France is another micro-world, the experience is exciting, exhausting and intense and Cat hopes it will never end. However three weeks can be a long time in the foundations of love and friendship so what effects will the tour have on Cat?
I must admit the reason I selected this book from the pile was the mention of the Tour de France. I am an avid cycling fan and since my memories in 1989 of Laurent Fignon losing the race by 8 seconds after three weeks of cycling to Greg LeMond I have been hooked. This is an intense world of superhuman endurance which is never far from team politics and drug scandals. Freya North obviously has a love for cycling or I cannot believe she would want to set a novel around such a specialist subject. She spent time with well-known cycling journalists as well as obtaining information from cyclists and their partners and following the tour herself in parts. This research comes across very well in the book and on the whole I would say it is reasonably accurate. Real and fictional names of cyclists are apparent and there were definitely some past members of the cycling hierarchy that can be recognised by the descriptions of the books characters. She has been generous enough to provide fictional stage wins for some of the riders who helped her which was a nice touch. The emphasis on the cyclist and the tour may well put some readers off but a friend of mine read it, who never watched cycling, and she has been glued to her television for the last couple of weeks watching this year's event so it can obviously convert some.
Putting the Tour aside this is the story of a young woman trying to put her past love-life behind her and setting herself a challenge to move forward in her career. I found the perpetual references to Him, her previous boyfriend, a little trying as very little information was given until near the end of the book so it got very repetitive.
The basic storyline was not at all complicated and I am not sure it would have held my attention without the references to the gods in Lycra! It was obviously going to be a love story, which was fine, but it was a little contrived in places and then the ending held no surprises at all. The most interesting character was not cat herself but Rachel, a soigneur for one of the teams who was battling her way in a man's world.
The description I had read of this book was "a funny romantic romp". This appeared to be a reasonable description except that I didn't find it particulary funny and every now and again a particularly descriptive sex scene appeared! I am not opposed to sexual scenes in books ( to be honest I quite like them!) but these just seemed to take me by surprise, sometimes they were there and then at other points when you were expecting a bit of detail from between the sheets you got nothing, it just seemed a bit strange. This was probably made more embarrassing by my 70 year old dad telling me he had read this book when he saw me with it!
I could not really take to the writing style of this book at all. It was written in the third person but then every now and again there was text that was addressed to the characters which I just found peculiar and a bit silly. I think this is just a personal preference as my friend barely noticed this but it really irritated me.
All things considered this is probably not a book I would recommend unless you are as obsessed by cycling as I am because there are much better entertaining chick-lit books out there. I have read Pillowtalk by Freya North which is much more recent and in my opinion much better so I wouldn't dismiss the author but I also wouldn't bother read the other books about Cats sisters which were written about the same.
Cat is the tale of Catriona "the babe" McCabe, fledgling sports journalist, on her first ever Tour de France covering the event for The Guardian newspaper.
The book features the sort of detail that you'd expect to find within the pages of a specialist cycling magazines pull out supplement on the Tour in a stage by stage blow by blow account. As a bike enthusiast I found this mildly informative but for those with no interest in cycling whatsoever give it a very wide berth as it features an awful lot of strategy and references to cog sizes as well as haemorrhoids and udder cream.
The only redeeming feature is the books devotion to bonking. A term used to indicate the point of fatigue at which a rider can go no further and abandons the race. Of course theres lots of the other sort of bonking too, however this is farcically described with lots of exciting statements like "her sex was moist". Riveting stuff. This could well have been a contender for The Literary Bad Sex Award although in 1999 (the year of publication) that prestigious honour went to A.A. Gil's Starcrossed.
The author uses some rather odd concepts which include conversations interspersed with the characters subconscious thoughts in italics between lines. Following one character doing this is tolerable but when every single one of them is at it it seems to go on forever and gets very confusing.
The ultimate question would seem to be did I enjoy it? It certainly gave me an insight into the Tour De France from the riders perspective and it made me laugh rather a lot but I fear that was unintentional on the authors part. Its not something I would re-read.
When I first met my husband, a keen cyclist, I impressed him no end with my knowledge of the world of cycling. I'll let you into a little secret. At the time all of my cycling knowledge had been gleaned from Freya North's book, 'Cat', but don't tell him that!
~~~ Synopsis ~~~
This was Freya North's fourth novel and introduced the three McCabe sisters who feature in this book and three subsequent ones. Cat, Fen and Pip McCabe had an eclectic upbringing by their uncle Django after their mother ran off with a cowboy from Denver. Freya's fifth and sixth books focus on Fen and Pip but as you've probably guessed by the title of this book, Cat (short for Catriona) is the main character of this one. Cat is a 28 year old sports journalist who leaves England to get over a failed relationship and rebuild her self-confidence whilst she reports on the Tour De France.
Cat soon finds that the Tour is a very male dominated world - she is one of only twelve females in a press corps of a thousand. But like the feisty heroine she is, she soon finds her way and forms a good working relationship with two other English journalists, Josh and Alex. Whilst following the Tour, Cat encounters a host of interesting characters from riders to podium girls but is drawn towards Ben York, a doctor for the American team Megapac. She just can't work out whether or not he is interested in her.
The majority of this book takes place during the three weeks of the Tour De France and follows the race on its two thousand or so mile journey around France. There are many dramas along the way and not all of them take place on two wheels. By the end of the book the reader is left waiting to find out two things - who will win the Tour and what will happen to Cat.
~~~ My Opinion ~~~
This is by far my favourite of Freya North's books, and that's not because I'm married to a cyclist! I found Cat to be a character that the reader could really care about. I usually find it hard to relate to the heroines of this type of book because they all seem to be ferocious and super-confident or simpering, pathetic and desperate for the man of their dreams to come along. Cat is neither of these. She has an element of vulnerability to her but is also feisty enough to forge her way in a male-dominated world.
In writing this book, Freya North clearly did a lot of research into the Tour De France and the world of cycling. Having lived with a cycling-obsessed man for four years now, I know that there are some inaccuracies in this story but for the most part the author knows her stuff. The majority of characters in the book are fictional but some real life figures such as Lance Armstrong and Phil Liggett pop up from time to time. The book does touch on the doping problems experienced by the Tour in recent years but remains uncontroversial for the most part. Before I read this book I had no interest in cycling but this book (and later a special someone) stirred my interest and now I sit glued to the Tour De France on TV every year.
As well as Cat, there are some other interesting and appealing characters. The focus of the book shifts away from Cat at times and the reader gets the chance to see events from the point of view of some of the riders such as Fabian Ducasse, a cocky French cycling heart-throb and Luca Jones, an American outside bet with a good heart. At times I found this shift frustrating because I wanted to find out what happened to Cat but I quickly found myself becoming interested in what the other characters were up to and enjoyed following them for a while instead.
A reviewer described this book as "Jilly Cooper on wheels" which is part of the reason why I picked it up in the first place. This is certainly an apt description since just like Jilly Cooper, Freya North is not afraid to write some fairly explicit sex scenes. This actually makes a nice change as unlike most current female authors she doesn't end her scenes when the characters climb into bed but instead continues in detail describing exactly what they get up to.
As this is a romance story, the ending of the book is fairly predictable. Unfortunately, and without giving anything away about the ending, I found it to be something of an anticlimax as given the excitement of the rest of the book I was expecting something more dramatic. However, the bonus with this book is that because Freya North has written three more books about the McCabe sisters, you get to find out what happens to Cat and the other characters after this book ends.
In my opinion this is an excellent book. It is a little slow towards the end but is nevertheless a very worthwhile read. I very rarely return to books I have previously read but I have read this several times now and have enjoyed it every time. Even if you are not the slightest bit interested in cycling or sport in general, there is plenty to enjoy in this book. Oh, and you'll also find out about a novel use cyclists have for bananas which my husband reckons is entirely fictional but I doubt he'd admit if it wasn't!
~~~ Details ~~~
ISBN 13: 978-0099446774
Published by Arrow Books
Paperback edition first published in 2000
Available from Amazon for £5.99 (new)
Author's website: www.freyanorth.com
Freya North - Cat
First published by William Heinemann in 1999.
ISBN: 0 09 948476 5
Another book of the mini series about the McCabe sisters; Fen, Pip and Cat.
If you haven't read my reviews of the other two I'll just repeat my advice here: Doesn't matter what order you read them in but read them all before venturing on to 'Home truths' as this book is set a few years in the future for the whole McCabe family.
Cat McCabe: cycling enthusiast, going off to cover the Tour De France as a sports journalist: the main character.
Fen McCabe: Cats sister, the art archivist.
Pip McCabe: Cats other sister, works as a clown.
Django: Uncle who brought up all 3 girls in the absence of his crazy sister who ran off with a cowboy from Denver if I remember right!! lives in Derbyshire still in the girls childhood home.
Ben: Cats love interest, a physiotherapist for the cyclists.
Before I start the review of the plot, I have to say on the double page before the book starts; there is a map of the Tour De France so you can keep up with where Cat and the cyclists are travelling everyday.
I really did find myself turning back to the map to see how far they'd got.
A very nice little quirk I think!
Cat has broken up with her boyfriend at home and has been offered the chance of a lifetime for a sports journalist; to follow the Tour De France reporting back to a UK newspaper daily.
Off she goes to France, meeting a lot of interesting men on the way!
She works closely with two other journalists; Alex and Josh and flirts with a few of the cyclists too!
But Ben, a cycling team's physiotherapist is the man she really falls for!
Sex, Drugs and ego's a go-go!
Ben is told she has a boyfriend at home so thinks she's just after a quick shag which causes a few problems...
This book contains a lot of sex! It's a bit rude at parts but not too bad,lol.
If you've read other Freya North books (or my reviews) you wouldn't be expecting as graphic descriptions as are delivered here!
A great read, you get the idea Cat doesn't usually behave this way so it all just the magic and adrenaline of the Tour and you get drawn in too. Very exciting.
Same loveable characters as always, Freya North really does write well especially with the characters personalities; they're all likeable!
I think it's my (close) second favourite of the three in the mini series; Cat is my fave, Pip my least favourite but I still do like and recommend them all, It would be a shame not to read them all once you've started.