Book Math: ‘Love Actually’+jazz music+Philadelphia=’2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas’

As an English teacher and as a writer, I have little use for math. It’s not my favorite subject, and I don’t come across it much. If I do, there’s usually a tool to do it for me. When I recently read ‘2 a.m. at The Cat’s Pajamas’ (which is a wonderful name for a jazz night club, by the way) by Marie-Helene Bertino, I was floored by the seemingly perfect package. When I thought about it longer, it occurred to me that Bertino had a big pot and she added elements of jazz music, my favorite British rom-com of all time, ‘Love Actually,’ and the backdrop of a famous east coast city to make this lovely, smooth book.

Let’s break down how Bertino did this.

‘Love Actually’

It was the feel-good film that started the trend of stories of interconnectedness. It came out at a seemingly perfect time, including a touching monologue about love and 9/11 and had Hugh Grant dancing. No wonder it’s considered a classic now.

Like the film, ‘Cat’s Pajamas’ has an endearing child who recently lost a mother and has musical aspirations. Around her float a solar system of characters she either connects directly or indirectly. No matter the degrees of separation, everyone has something in common—they yearn for something in their lives, whether it’d be to fulfill a dream or to fulfill the void of loneliness left by love gone wrong.

Of course, just like at ‘Love Actually’s Christmas program, the characters all eventually collide and it puts a smile on your face.

Jazz Music

Music is a big part of Madeleine’s life. It’s the thing she thinks about every day, as well as the thing that rules the memories of her recently deceased mother. The titular club is a jazz club. Even Bertino’s prose is like a jazz piece, full of smooth twists and turns, stuffed with rhythm and delight.


I’ve been to the City of Brotherly Love before, but when you’re a tourist you see the parts of the city that everyone else usually sees. Bertino had such a unique view on a big city that it made the place feel small and intimate (almost as if we were sitting in a jazz club). Even the snowy weather didn’t deter from a well-woven love for her hometown. And it’s here, and only here, that this book could exist. The story wouldn’t work without the city, without it’s cast of characters, and without the love for jazz. It hits all the notes, goes on all the runs, and proves a wonderful, one-day read.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars 

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


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