Review by Karl Verhoven
Manon has been preparing for weeks to adopt a puppy from the litter delivered at the farm of her friend Erika’s Aunt. However at the last moment Manon changes her mind, captivated instead by a litter of kittens that’s just arrived, and takes one of those home instead, annoying Erika on two counts, the second being that she’s allergic to cats. However, Manon having such a fine time with Grapefruit’s company sees Erika eventually overcome her allergies to take on Pudgy, while the book is complete when their mutual friend Camille acquires Imnopet. The more refined Lucie and her pet Pollux occasionally also put in an appearance.
Purrfect Strangers combines English translations of the first three cat-based comedy collections produced by Frédéric Brrémaud and Paola Antista, with the three remaining books published as Girlfriends and Catfriends. The format varies between single page gag strips and those running over several pages, but is consistent in promoting the idea that cats are adorable creatures and any amount of minor inconvenience is small potatoes compared to the love generated when they decide they want some affection. Of course, sensible people know that already.
Brrémaud’s contributions can vary, some jokes prolonged and laboured while others are perfectly paced, but there’s a far greater consistency about Antista, a natural cartoonist who makes the cats loveable under almost any circumstances. Yes, even when Grapefruit is stalking butterflies or wrecking the apartment when avoiding a bath. Antista fills every page with detail and delight, and while the three main characters are also always cute, she can switch to scabby pirates instantly.
The pirates appear midway through, by which point Brrémaud’s making a greater effort to filter in other kinds of strips in addition to the domestic comedy. Having Manon and Grapefruit head away to her grandparents on holiday changes the location, and it incorporates a selection of strips about Manon’s infancy. Subsequent themes explored over a few pages include an outbreak of fleas, a cat-based fairy tale and Manon’s off the wall attempts to return a lost kitten. Occasionally there’s a complete surprise: “In 1963 France conducted experiments sending cats into space. You may well ask yourself why, but that’s how it was…” The sardonic tone is the same used in endearing footnotes like “*Come on, make a little effort. We talked about him a few pages ago”.
One Brrémaud hits his stride, any cat lover’s going to be seduced by his and Antista’s efforts on Cats!