Alfie the Doorstep Cat (Rachel Wells)
Not to sound snobby, but I was expecting this book to be one of those light, fluffy reads, the sort designed for you to read while lounging on a beach on holiday, i.e. nothing too heavy or complicated in terms of plot or themes. And yes, it basically is, but I still found myself captivated by this tale of a homeless kitty trying to find a home in a scary and unfamilar street. It probably helps that I’m a bit of a sucker for anything involving cats or dogs in the first place; partly why From Baghdad with Love proved such an emotional read for me as well, and why I was inspired to write a poem about my recently acquired pet cat, who himself was homeless and seemingly looking for a home to call his home just like the titular Alfie of this book. As explained within the book, a ‘doorstep cat’ is one who stops at various different homes in a neighbourhood, for food and/or human affection, not simply choosing one to settle in. Alfie feels compelled to do this after his elderly owner passes away, and does not want to be in a situation where he is left all alone again, so therefore opts to have several homes rather than just one. One of the most interesting things about the book is how it is actually told from the perspective of Alfie – he is the one speaking in the first-person (first-feline?) narration. This in turn provides a lot of the humour in the book, giving a feline perspective to the actions of humans, which of course do not always make sense when viewed through the harsh judging eyes of a cat. While the plot and events end up becoming rather predictible after a certain point, and the dialogue often coming off as unnatural and clunky, I still found myself rooting for Alfie and the various humans he encounters, all with their own problems and issues in life. As I said, the book probably relies on you being an animal lover in order to emotionally manipulate you, but a lot of the sentiment does indeed ring true – Alfie brightens these people’s lives, and call me a foolish romantic if you like, but I am convinced that my own cat, Charlie, is able to tell when I’m upset or I’ve had a monumentally shitty day, and is always able to make me feel better. The book is hardly a literary masterpiece by any means, but there is something about it that is still very compelling. I’m even tempted to check out the sequels that have apparently followed, of the further adventures of Alfie.
While I’ve mentioned the writing and dialogue isn’t always exactly stellar, there is a surprisingly deep message from our feline hero at the end of the book, and I will leave you with his perspective of what it is to be be human:
“…Not that you ever become completely healed, you understand. There will always be a part of you that is still healing, still hurting, but that becomes a part of your character and you learn to live with it. That’s what I think happens, anyway, because that’s how it feels to me”. — Alfie.
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Paperback – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Awakening-Selection-Poems-Stuart-Peacock/dp/1911476335