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Review: A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen


Hold up! Before you read on, please read this...

This post was published more than 5 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. Not everything that is old is bad. It can be interesting to see how views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured.

But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views might very well have changed in the 5 years since I wrote this post. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find pretty embarrassing today.
  • This post might use language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate or offensive.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken; embedded material might not appear properly.

Okay. Consider yourself duly warned. Read on...

I should start this review by pointing out that I’m not a “cat person”. I have no particular affection for felines. I suspect that sets me at a disadvantage in terms of enjoying a book about a cat.

This is the story of a drug-addict busker living in sheltered accommodation (James) who takes in a stray cat (Bob) and nurses it back to health. I think a neat parallel is intended between Bob’s recovery and James’s battle with drug addiction – except it doesn’t quite hang properly, as Bob returns to full health within a couple of chapters, whereas James has not completed his drug addiction journey by the end of the book.

There were times at which I found James utterly unsympathetic. His occasionally inexplicably poor choices are related without the insight generated by hindsight that would have made me warm to the character. Because I found the character unsympathetic, I found it difficult to be drawn into the story. And this wasn’t helped by the repetitiveness of the story, and of the emotions described. Really, there are only so many times I can stomach reading about a cat wandering off and it’s owner being worried, or a cat being ill and its owner being worried, or a cat being scared and its owner being worried.

Few things irritate me as much as unthinking anthromorphology, and this is heaped on in spades in this book. We’re constantly told Bob’s thoughts and motivations, and it’s quite possible that over the course of the book he’s ascribed more human attributes than the human protagonist.

In recent book reviews, I’ve been complaining a lot about the standard of proof-reading and editing in recently published books. The standard in this volume is perhaps the poorest I’ve come across. There was a least one point where I found myself unable to follow the plot because a character’s name changed several times. That is pretty inexcusable. Wikipedia is better edited than that.

I accept wholeheartedly that I do not belong to the target audience for this book. It has received excellent reviews elsewhere, and many people find it heart-warming. Many report that it has opened their eyes to the reality of life on the streets, newly reinforced difficulty of overcoming drug addiction, and educated them on aspects of cat care. Those all seem like fairly worthy results, and I don’t intend to suggest through my own negative review that this book hasn’t earned its place on the shelf of the local bookseller. I applaud James’s tenacity and ingenuity in creatively profiting from the story of his relationship with his cat, for tackling his demons, and for building a better life for himself; I wish him all the best for the future.

All of that said, A Street Cat Named Bob did nothing for me. I was unmoved. I found the book tedious in the extreme. I felt that the material on homelessness and drug addiction has been covered far better elsewhere, and cat care tips couldn’t be further from my personal interests. While others clearly see literary merit in the volume to the extent that they have enjoyed very much enjoyed it, I’m afraid I do not. And as such, I cannot recommend it.

A Street Cat Named Bob is available now from amazon.co.uk, in paperback and on Kindle.

This 2,069th post was filed under: Book Reviews.

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