Welcome Home, Bernard Socks!

12188901_10153135005221232_481422439689300254_nThis past week I’ve been reading Paul Magrs’ Welcome Home, Bernard Socksthe sequel to last year’s Story of Fester Cat.This second volume of memoir feels like a return visit to old friends: it’s just as vivid, warm and compulsively readable. Once again, we encounter Paul scribbling away in his garden den, Jeremy rambunctiously righting wrongs, and a distinctive feline companion that helps bind their lives together in their cosy book-filled home…

Bernard Socks turns out to be a very different character to his predecessor, Fester (who nonetheless keeps an affectionate and sometimes exasperated eye on proceedings, narrating from sidelines). Picked from a rescue centre – whose staff and inhabitants are well described by Magrs’ vivid pen strokes – Socks is a bundle of energy, combative and adventuresome. One of my favourite sections of this book is the wild chase Socks leads Paul and Jeremy on across their neighbourhood: scrambling over gardens and up scaffolding until he finally becomes embroiled in a Midsummer carnival attended by cats both present and long since departed. It’s one of those characteristic imaginative leaps from the everyday into the fantastic that I know will delight readers of Paul’s work.

Where this volume differs from the previous memoir is, I think, the tone is perhaps in places a little darker. Fate deals the boys some cruel blows: there’s the loss of an old friend and corresponding thoughts on memory and family, and a builder’s accident which leads to the wrecking of much of Paul and Jeremy’s home. The Story of Fester Cat was a celebration of a life and also a story of healing after the loss of a beloved pet – I get the impression that this time round wounds are still a little fresh, and challenges ongoing. Of course, all of this makes me eager for a third volume – not only so I can spend a little longer in their world, but also because I want to know everything is going to be all right. Bernard Socks has arrived – let’s see where he takes us next!

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