Firmin himself, both narrator and protagonist, is a self-professed “trespasser, vagabond, bum, pedant,voyeur, gnawer of books, ridiculous dreamer, liar, windbag, and pervert.” He is also a rat!
This short (148 pages), tightly written book follows the life of a runt-rat (thirteenth offpsring to a mother with twelve teats) who grows up in a neighbourhood bounded by the Rialto theatre (which shows Hollywood fare by day and pornographic films after midnight) and the Pembroke Bookshop (which stocks a universe of “Big Ones” like Joyce's Finnegan's Wake as well as contraband books from Olympia and Obelisk presses, judiciously stored in a safe at the back of the store). It's all there: philosophy, psychogeography, literary theory, Freud and Ginger Rogers.
Firmin is a rat but in every other way he's like you and me: he wants for love and friendship, he's hurt by betrayal, he wants to be warm and dry and well-fed and he wants his life to have meaning. Sam Savage charmingly draws these parallels to deliver a blunt message, if Firmin the rat can find his humanity surely we can too.