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Cat Brushing

On sale

21st July 2022

Price: £14.99

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Selected: Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781529421682

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I was told of an older woman who was asked by her granddaughter, ‘Granny, when was the happiest time of your life?’
‘I don’t know,’ she replied, ‘I may not have had it yet.’

‘Sensual, spiky, tender and utterly original’ Pandora Sykes

The stories found in this collection explore the sensual worlds of thirteen older women, reframing their intellectual and emotional lives in intimate vignettes that will shock and comfort in equal measure.

Susan finds she is attracted to her beautiful young carer, Miffy, and embarks on an intense emotional relationship with her. Nell discovers a cut on her leg, which leads her on to reflections on her past and a young girl in distress she encountered on her honeymoon. Linda perversely seeks out her former lover, Malik, on the banks of the Victoria Falls, despite having left him years ago to return to her settled marriage to Bill. Daisy, who, by a curious stroke of fate, finds herself at the funeral of her former husband, Tim, relives their early life together, his betrayal of her and the anguish of that time. The narrator of ‘Lockdown Fantasm’ enjoys the cool fingers of her government-authorised Fantasm on week one hundred and ninety-three of the long lockdown. In ‘Schopenhauer and I’, Martha, mourning her little dog whom she believes has been killed by the care home staff, works out how to manage a robot designed to monitor her behaviour, and to get her revenge. The narrator of ‘Cat Brushing’ communes with her elegant, soft Siamese cat, reflecting on the sexual pleasures of her past.

In spiky, elegant prose, Jane Campbell ignites the voices of women who are fighting to live on their own terms, energised by their desires and passions, freedoms, integrity and sense of self. Cat Brushing confronts the tragic misconceptions of aging and presents a vivid and transgressive peek into older women’s lives.


Jamie Quatro, author of Fire Sermon
Jane Campbell is a wonder! It's her clear-eyed vision, rendered in prose as crisp as bone china, that had me rapt. This book flings open a heretofore shuttered window, giving us an invigoratingly fresh and absolutely essential view of the psychology and emotions and appetites of aging women. Jane Campbell, where have you been? We've needed you for a very, very long time.
Darcey Steinke, author of Flash Count Diary
Jane Campbell's Cat Brushing is the debut of the decade, an eighty year old woman laying out the physical and spiritual struggle of life at its very end. I was haunted by these stories of older women falling, having strokes, dying--subjects often flattened into sentimentality--but in Campbell's hands made both elegant and transgressive. We are striving creatures of intense desire, Campbell insists, until we are not.
Megan Hunter, author of The End We Start From and The Harpy
I loved these fresh, wry, strange stories; by turns moving and unnerving, they disturb expectations of the longings, loves and ambitions of older women.
Christine Schutt, Pure Hollywood and Other Stories
In thirteen revivifying stories, thirteen candid, empathic portraits of aging women for whom desire yet smolders, Campbell proves aging is a complex sport. Some mental agility is required, some wit and wisdom. Befuddlement and remorse are a part of play, too, but the stories offer the solace of shared experience and company.
John Freeman, Editor of The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story
Stepping into these stories by Jane Campbell feels like opening a door back into the world. The thrust of life, of longing and regret, of contempt and forgiveness, it's all here in such vivid, delicious phrasing. She reads like Eudora Welty's wicked British cousin, a lot of fun.
Lily King, author of Writers & Lovers
Cat Brushing is a fierce and fascinating debut. I loved these women who have taken off their gloves to fight life with their bare hands.
Kate Reed Petty
I laughed out loud in joy and admiration so many times in this original, surprising book. Cat Brushing is about aging, about sex, about the weirdness of technology, and about womanhood - these stories felt both deeply familiar to me and far too absent from many of our culture's stories. Jane Campbell is a refreshing, compelling new voice.
Pandora Sykes
Sensual, spiky, tender and utterly original short stories about the desire of women in their seventies and older.
Women's Own
Cat Brushing offers a much-needed fresh perspective on the diverse realities of ageing.
Sunday Business Post
An illuminating, funny and tender collection that affirms wisdom and experience as the basis for great storytelling
New York Times
It's not every day . . . that you encounter a debut as fresh, assured and fun as Jane Campbell's . . . Though her stories are frequently explicit enough to bring colour to your cheeks, Campbell maintains a cool, commanding tone that enhances the effect of her limpid prose . . . The stories are varied in approach without being showy about it, and consistently draw novel insight from a few major themes: aging, sexuality, memory, loneliness. Her work merits comparison with that of Edna O'Brien or Muriel Spark, while an uncanny streak running through several of the pieces . . . might bring Daphne du Maurier to mind.
Sunday Independent Ireland (Book of the Year)
Sensuous, strange and utterly original.