“The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats” by Jeffrey Masson

Book Title: The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats

Author: Jeffrey Masson

I have to confess to being an unrepentant ailurophile, so it was only natural that I would look forward to reading Jeffrey Masson’s The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats. In no respect did Masson’s wonderful exploration of the probable emotional states of cats in general and his own five cats in particular, disappoint.

It would be upsetting to think that such a book examining cross-species understanding (humans and cats), only appealed to cat lovers. Masson earlier wrote a similar work examining dog behaviour. He cannot be guilty of an accusation of species prejudice!

Part of the book’s richness is how much it also draws on the most recent research on cat behaviour and in a lively and personal style, Masson attempts to answer some of the enigmas of their behaviour. Enigmas that have plagued many cat observers. Why does it seem that cats will go to the one person a crowded room who either has ailurophobia or who exhibits a dislike of cats? Why do cats appear to stare at nothing with so much intensity at times? Why is it that cats appear to see so well in “the dark”? (They can’t of course, see in total darkness.) Masson’s explanation for these behaviours is always conversational and never didactic.

Added to the book’s splendour is Masson’s own experiences with his five cats and how keen he is in observing their individual behaviours. There is the playful Miki, the purring dreamer Minnalouche and the sad loner Yossie, whose emotional life Masson admits, remains a locked safe even to him.

The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats may not make you a cat lover, but I defy anyone to emerge from a reading of this treat of a book, without a strong respect for a much maligned and misunderstood species.

The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats by Jeffrey Masson is published in Australia by Random House Australia.

 

“The Christmas Train” by David Baldacci

Book Title: The Christmas Train

Author: David Baldacci

When one tries to be complementary in one’s views, it is disheartening when the author conspires to completely disable most positive statements.

David Baldacci’s The Christmas Train, has, as a result, frustrated this reviewer who was prepared to overlook the second paragraph of the novel’s unnecessary repetition of a conjunction begging to be underused in the English language; if the subsequent narrative was one of power. Sadly, it is not.

The novel embraces the sadly ever-present American puritanical streak (a passenger sleeping naked in quarters that he has paid for, is berated); while hypocritically asking the reader to admire the hero because of his propensity to attract two lovers (a former and a current). The moral ambiguity of this childish rationalization is never tackled by Baldacci, whose apparent philosophy on life returns the reader by implication, to a lifestyle the misogyny of which endured for many, until the end of the 1960’s.

Similarly the rapid and unlikely resolution to the hero’s dilemma is inadequate and dampens the one promise that the novel held out: that the characters may develop rather than act as neat devices in a novel never sure whether it wants to be mystery or journeying tale.

The references to Twain’s “The Innocents Abroad” and Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” don’t really work either. Rather than enhancements to the novel, they function more as crutches for the author to use when he wants to regulate the pace of the plot.

The Christmas Train is a nice bit of whimsy but don’t get on board expecting too many literary presents.

The Christmas Train is published in Australia by Pan Macmillan Australia.