Monday, 22 October 2012

A Street Cat Named Bob

James Bowen is living in sheltered accommodation when he discovers a ginger tom sat in his hallways. Convinced the cat must belong to a neighbour, and wanting to avoid trouble, he leaves the cat be until her sees him day after day; and the poor thing isn’t in good shape. Taking the cat in, is more responsibility that James wants but he can’t just leave him and takes him along to the RSPCA vets. He names the cat Bob and once nursed back to health, Bob decides to repay James his kindness.

At the heart of A Street Cat Named Bob is a lovely, heart-warming story of one man and his cat. One day Bob follows James to his busking spot, across London and travelling by bus. Bob turned out to be quite a hit amongst Londoners as well as playing a huge part in turning James’ life around. It gives some insight into life on the streets, although it’s not particularly gritty or enlightening to anyone already familiar with the topics.

To be honest, I would have enjoyed the tales of James and Bob in a shorter format. The writing isn’t particularly accomplished, with simple sentences and quite a bit of repetition. The lack of skill probably contributes to the feeling of moaniness throughout. Now I’m sure it’s been tough and there is a lot of negativity on the streets, but briefly telling the reader how horrible someone/something is without the supporting evidence of a developed description of their actions, doesn’t create the empathy needed for the book to be moving. Yes, James has been on the streets and doesn’t have the benefit of education, but that doesn’t mean his editor couldn’t have worked with him a bit more on improving the prose.

I did get the feeling that James makes just as many assumptions about the people walking past him as some people make about the homeless. Later on, he does acknowledge that people can be annoying on the streets, especially when he moved to Islington and competes with chuggers and tells us about some of the problematic Big Issue sellers. Yet some of his comments are a bit off-putting. Just because I don’t give to everyone that asks for money, does not mean I think they’re less than human. I would be horrified to see a man kicking a cat in the street and picking a fight but would I try to break it up? No, because I’d be too scared to. Not because I don’t care. I might attempt to rescue the cat though. Just seems to be an accusing tone throughout but that might just be down to the basic writing style.

So it annoyed me a bit but I did like the parts about Bob and on occasions there was a real sense of tension, like when James is wrongly arrested. I know loads of people love this book and Bob is an internet sensation but it just fell flat for me. I kind of feel a bit mean saying this now because I do think James has done a great job sorting himself out.

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4 comments:

  1. Dan bought me this book when it was brand new because I kept begging for "the cat book". Trouble is, you're not the only person I've heard from who was underwhelmed by Street Cat Named Bob, so he's been sat on my shelf unloved for months now. Poor old Bob.

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    1. Dewey the Library Cat is much better. And I have a few of Tom Cox's cat books because he seems quite amusing. I used to avoid any book with a cute animal on the cover, but some of them are quite good.

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  2. I bought this last weekend and I'm really looking forward to reading it. Every review I've read so far mentioned that the writing is pretty simple which worries me a little bit but... I'm still intrigued.

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