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This is a novel told through the voice of a rat. Firmin is born in the basement of a ramshackle old bookstore but because he is the runt of the litter, he is forced to compete for food and ends up chewing on the books that surround him. Firmin soon realizes his source of nourishment has endowed him with the ability to read and this discovery fills him with an insatiable hunger for literature and a very unratlike sense of the world and his place in it. As Firmin navigates the shadowy streets of his decaying area, looking for understanding, his excitement, loneliness, fear, and self-consciousness become remarkably human and undeniably touching. But the days of the bookshop and of the close community around it are numbered. The area has been marked out for 'urban regeneration' and soon the faded glory of the bookshop, the small local theatre, the unique shops and small cafes will face the bulldozers and urban planners. Brilliantly original and richly allegorical, Firmin is brimming with charm and wistful longing for a world that understands the redemptive power of literature and treasures its seedy theaters, one-of-a-kind characters, and cluttered bookshops.