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2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  7,143 ratings  ·  1,388 reviews
A sparkling, enchanting and staggeringly original debut novel about one day in the lives of three unforgettable characters

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, precocious nine-year-old and an aspiring jazz singer. As she mourns the recent death of her mother, she doesn’t realize that on Christmas Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life.
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Crown
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Michelle Mcroberts
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Holly Loved the mom's recipe cards. I think all parents should do this, because we'll likely all need them.…moreLoved the mom's recipe cards. I think all parents should do this, because we'll likely all need them.(less)

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Average rating 3.45  · 
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 ·  7,143 ratings  ·  1,388 reviews

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Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book almost lost me at first - I just couldn't get into the different storylines and the omniscient point-of-view felt kind of obnoxious. After I let my ego go, and stopped trying to predict where the story was going (because I was sure I knew EXACTLY what was going to happen next), I found myself falling in love with the characters, the plot, the city. 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas is not for readers that take themselves too seriously, but it is for bookish folk that can allow themselves to ...more
Maya Panika
I have very mixed feelings about this novel. The writing is exciting, quirky, poetic, original and touched with beautiful, poignant, throwaway observances. At times it made me think that the author was trying to write like Kerouac - and maybe that was the case, given that the rhythms of jazz pervade the narrative and the 'heroine' is a jazz aficionado and aspiring singer. The characters are unusual; not terribly likeable for the most part. There is no sole protagonist: most of the tale revolves ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book was sheer delight! I loved how the author portrayed children as having unique and strange personalities and desires, and also their own internal lives.

Madeleine was a great character, learning about life by learning from her mother but also following her own passion, despite being banned from performing at school.

I love the Lorcas and the sadness of a failing business. I love the principle and her life apart from school. I love Sauvine who reminds me a bit of Bridget Jones.

The timeli
Lindsey Rey
Jan 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary, 2015
[3.5 Stars]
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a pure, winter comfort read that belies the pain and loss at the heart of the story. Madeleine Altimari is living in a cockroach infested apartment with a father nearly comatose with grief after the death of his wife. Jack Lorca is on the verge of losing his jazz club not to mention the tenuous relationship he has with his son. Sarina Greene is divorced and lonely in a new city. But the language that ushers each of them, inexorably, to the Cat’s Pajamas is dazzling and light. Musicians a ...more
Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this book, and there were times when I encountered certain phrases that so perfectly described a thought or an action that I felt as though the author had a lock on my experience of the world. That being said, I found this book very confusing.

There are several characters that I was interested in and felt connected to. Their stories were interlaced with other short vignettes dealing with minor players who I didn't feel advanced the story in any way. I enjoyed Madeline - the near
lucky little cat
Jazz musicians, teacher and pro-bono-lawyer do-gooders of all stripes, and an almost-lovable jerk of a child prodigy (who's having

a No-Good Very Bad decade) all converge at Philly's legendary Cat's Pajamas jazz club. Resistance is futile: you've got to see what destiny has in store.

Don't believe me? Look what the author has squirreled away at the end of the acknowledgements, then try to imagine how much charm is packed into the rest of the book:
Finally, to Thomas Everett Dodson, best dressed, b
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Precocious nine-year-old Madeleine Altimari is mourning the recent death of her mother and has no idea how extraordinary Christmas Eve is about to be!  The aspiring young jazz singer has dealt with rude classmates, a school suspension, and an absent father.  Now it's time for her to track down the jazz club The Cat's Pajamas for her on-stage debut.

On the same night, Madeleine's fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene is dodging her ex-husband and taking a chance by going to a dinner party with some ol
Celeste Ng
Marie-Helene Bertino's novel about a 9-year-old aspiring jazz singer named Madeleine unfolds in language that's like jazz itself: lithe and liquid and surprising. Three separate storylines--one Madeleine's, one her teacher's, and one of the hard-up owner of the jazz club The Cat's Pajamas--converge at (yup) 2 AM. But interwoven with these three main plotlines are many smaller strands, like little riffs and improvisations mingling with the melody. The result is a charming confection of a book, sa ...more
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
Do you ever wonder if, as life goes on, we're going to run out of ideas for stories? Does it seem like a lot of the books out there are too similar? I don't think that'll happen--the world is constantly evolving, which alone, will garner endless ideas. But I think the author of 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas does think we're running out of ideas...and she tries way too hard to create something original, resulting in exasperation on my part (Marie-Helene Bertino, you have the bones of a great story- ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 10, 2014 rated it liked it
For me this novel was a very mixed read. I quickly fell in love with nine year old Madeleine, a motherless child whose father is sunk into himself with grief. Madeleine is used to taking care of herself, she is foul mouthed, very determined and her only wish is to sing in public. Strange things happen when she sings and I really wish this concept would have been more fully explored.

The secondary stories and characters I did not find as compelling with the exception of the dog, whose thoughts and
Julie Ehlers
This was kind of an urban fairy tale. Lively, funny, poignant, and so original. It even made me feel a rush of affection for Philadelphia, and that almost never happens. Having now read both her books, I can safely say that in Marie-Helene Bertino's hands, you will never, ever be bored.

I received this ARC via Shelf Awareness, in case anyone is wondering.
Jun 24, 2014 rated it liked it
As I was reading this book, it reminded me a bit of Love Actually. Not because of any similarities to the story lines of that movie, but more because of a sprawling cast of interconnected characters whose stories weave together around Christmas-time. Unfortunately, I feel like the massive cast works better on film, where you can put a face with a name. It took me half of the Cat's Pajamas just to keep the characters straight, and how they were all interconnected. Although the story takes place o ...more
Aug 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Madeleine Altimari is obsessed with old time jazz and she wants to be a jazz singer, like her beloved Blossom Dearie. She is nine years old...going on ten. Madeline is smart, a loner, a smoker and cusses like a dockworker. Her mother recently died and her father has vanished into his own despair.

The Cat's Pajamas is a legendary Philly jazz club, but it has fallen on hard times. Barely held together, with spit and duct tape, it is owned and operated by Jack Lorca, who is on the verge of bankruptc
Samantha S.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I’ve always been a fan of multi-perspective films/ books. I enjoy the omniscient narration that allows you to feel as though you’re observing rather than living. 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas felt somewhat familiar. That quick talking, factual way of telling a story. The pointing out of minute details that seem unimportant only to circle back down the road. If you’ve ever seen Amelie, a French film about a girl seeking the owner of a scrap book compiled of discarded Photo Booth pictures then you k ...more
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There are books that stay with you. For me, this is one. The book takes place over just a couple of days. Madeline is a 9 year old little girl who has lost her mother to cancer and her father to grief. Her parents loved jazz. So does she. As a baby she sang to Billy Holiday records. (I loved that part!) All she wants to do is sing. She goes to St. Anthony's school and would love to sing, but Clare Kelly gets to sing because her parents are big donors. Her mother was, according to the principal, ...more
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-long-ago
There is so much stuff going on in this book that has nothing whatsoever to do with the story-line it just becomes annoying. Perhaps the author had to produce a certain number of words in order to have the book published so it is filled with random ramblings that lead nowhere. A plethora of secondary characters and long passages of inane conversation that add nothing to move the story along.

The jacket synopsis tells us that the story is about Madeleine; a 9 year old aspiring jazz singer who hear
Chock-full of metaphory goodness, 2AM at The Cat's Pajamas beautifully weaves together three storylines gravitating around a past-its-prime jazz club. The novel's Old World feel perfectly suited the smokey barroom. The secondary characters were just as intriguing as the key figures and the foul-mouthed nine-year-old at the center of it all quickly became a favorite of mine. With it's catchy title and gripping characters, I can easily see this novel gaining a following, maybe not in the mainstrea ...more
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014-reads
This reminded me of a certain sort of holiday movie - think Love Actually or 200 Cigarettes (the 1999 movie about hipsters on New Year's Eve) that covers one day's happenings and follows the actions of a large linked assortment of characters. But then add a hyperverbal 10-year-old, lots of quirk and whimsy, several off-key notes, a few too many characters, and a very strange conclusion. There are some great sentences here (which I regretfully failed to mark). Not "staggeringly original" at all, ...more
Mar 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Tragically, my current need to speed-read textbooks and papers and turn them into lecture slides all week is making reading on weekday evenings relatively unappealing. Even my bloody PhD didn’t undermine my greatest love in this cruel fashion! At least I still feel like books at weekends. I’d hoped that ‘2am at The Cat’s Pajamas’ would be diverting, and to a point it was. But not enough to drive work-worries out of my head, which is what I require right now. I was initially disconcerted to reali ...more
Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One thing is for certain, 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas would be a perfect film. Sylvain Chomet needs to adapt it - no one else.

The book focuses on three people; Precocious Madeleine , a nine year old with problems and yet can sing, her fifth grade teacher Sarina and the owner of the Cat's Pajamas club Lorca. Within 24 hours the destinies of these three characters cris-cross until the grand finale.

As such there's some charm in the book but other than the Mary Poppinsesque ending it's pretty predic
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely Christmas story!
Jonathan Donihue
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The thing is.....on the one hand, I want to give this book 5 stars for the quality of the writing, and on the other hand, I want to give it 3 stars for the fact that I didn't give a crap about the characters.

This book is poetry! Every line is a delightful surprise. Every word is obviously carefully considered. The story line is first and foremost about jazz music and the writing style exemplifies that. It reads like a beat poem or a novel by Jack Kerouac. In that sense, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

“If you are anything other than humbled in the presence of love, you are not in the presence of love.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and found the characters well-crafted and interesting, particularly the nine-year-old Madeleine Altimari. Her dream to sing in front of a large crowd was inspiring, and her backstory was incredibly sad.

At times, I found the writing to be rather erratic and confusing, almost as if the author was unsure just what writing style she wanted to ultimately choose. This s
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I seriously loved this book. I was skeptical of the multiple story lines and POVs at first, but as I got to know the characters and immersed myself in their thoughts and dialogue, I was absolutely enchanted. I've come to realize that sassy children are some of my absolute favorite characters in the books I've been reading this year, so I totally fell in love with Madeline. I also loved how the adult characters interacted with her throughout this story. Sarina & Ben's story was so heartwarming an ...more
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-as-an-arc
Hoping the ending gets changed for publication, I was really into it except for the random magical realism that was never really explained.

I liked all the interconnectedness of the characters, but the repeated "like a plane banking" was jarring to get from at least 3 different points of view.
Will Ejzak
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is just the nicest, sweetest, most lovable book you can possibly imagine. It's also Christmasy as hell. If I hadn't just discovered it today, I would've bought it as a Christmas gift for everyone I know.

Imagine if Love Actually was twice as charming and didn't have the annoying parts. Also if it was a book written by a literary phenom. Bertino can write as well as anyone in the world, but she's decided to devote her energies to what's basically a holiday movie in book form. There's some se
I thought I was going to like this book. After all, the story is set at my favourite time of year, Christmas, and it appeared that the main character was a precocious 9-year-old girl named Madeleine who one couldn't help but love. It sounded completely compelling and I couldn’t wait to give the audiobook a listen.

First of all, this wasn’t a story about one little girl. Well, not for me. It wasn’t even about three people, as the book description suggests, although the stories of three characters
I don't have too much to say about 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas except that it's the perfect holiday break read. The prose sparkles.

Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A charming gem of a book, with a full cast of characters roaming around Philadelphia on Christmas Eve Eve. After a serious slump, this book just renewed my love for reading by wrapping me up in a story I still don’t want to leave.
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Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of the novel 2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS and the story collection SAFE AS HOUSES, and was the 2017 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Fellow in Cork, Ireland. Her work has received The O. Henry Prize, The Pushcart Prize, The Iowa Short Fiction Award, The Mississippi Review Story Prize, and has twice been featured on NPR's Selected Shorts. She teaches at NYU ...more

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