Hello there fellow bloggers! Yes, I know, i’ve been off the scene for a while now! Truth be told, i’ve been concentrating my efforts on two other online platforms: The Metropolist and Highlight Nation . Between the two, I review television, film and hip hop music- so, essentially, i’m still continuing to write about stuff I enjoy. The work is unpaid, but it’s all good experience- fingers crossed i’ll actually start getting some paid gigs soon! But, that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about Rare Titles!
As a welcome back, i’ve decided to review a novel I had the pleasure of reading as part of a work book club last month. This is a book which utterly changed my life in ways I could never have imagined, and as such stands as a Rare Title in its own right. The said text is A Street Cat Named Bob: a coming of age true story about a down-on-his-luck busker who forms an uncanny relationship with a ginger tom he discovers on his doorstep one day. Set in modern day London, and written from a street view, it’s offered an entirely new exciting perspective on the the city i’ve grown up in and come to call home.
Lead character and Author, James Bowen, is a street musician and former drug addict, who emigrated to London from Australia to get away from his family and start afresh . On first settling, his life was utter chaos- he began taking heroin and shortly thereafter found himself homeless. Now on a drug recovery programme, what he needed most was a new sense of responsibility and purpose- little did he know that higher calling would take the form of a small cat.
Coming home from a hard day’s busking one day, James sees a ginger tom injured on his doorstep and decides to nurse him back to health. Once better, James sends him on his way, only, the cat keeps returning. Assuming that the cat must like him, he decides to take him in on a trial period and even goes to the length of giving him a name. Next minute, Bob is accompanying James on his trips into Convent Garden. Passers by are quickly captivated by the sight of a cat at the busker’s side. Rather than ignoring James, they now stop to make generous donations. Not everyone is quite so accommodating though. Taking an instant disliking to James, a TFL staff member points out that he shouldn’t be busking so close to the tube station and threatens to remove him by force. As the two continue to clash, the musician eventually finds himself on the inside of a jail cell and desperately rethinking life.
With a look to avoiding future conflict, he decides instead to pursue a legal role on the streets as a Big Issue vendor. Bob continues to tag along. Once again though James encounters adversaries – this time they’re fellow Big Issue sellers who exhibit jealousy at the extra attention he receives with Bob at his side. They even going to length of fabricating a story about him selling in the wrong areas. Despite it all though, busker and cat continue to stand strong, pulling each other through the toughest of situations. As the story comes full circle, James reconnects with his family in Australia, and, capitalising on his new found fame, decides to write a book about his time with Bob.
One of the most pivotal moments of book is when James pulls aside a fundraiser outside Angel tube station during a Big Issue run. Differentiating their positions, he asserts that while the fundraiser may be saving for a gap year, he himself is trying to pay his electricity bill. On these grounds, he insists that the fundraiser should keep his distance, as he’s driving potential customers away. This scene was a real turning point for me- tempting as it is to place all fundraisers in the same boat, there are those whose lives depend on it. Set during the recent recession, it was also interesting to see how the economic downturn impacted at a street level- in short, as purses tightened, James and Bob had to go without.
I’m not gonna lie, this book moved me to tears. Written in Bowen’s own words, it’s one of the most honest, self-effacing stories I’ve ever come across. Before reading it, I hardly ever gave to charity; shortly after finishing it though, I found myself buying a copy of the Big Issue from a Vendor at Vauxhall station. My knowledge of cats has also grown- some of findings I’ve made are fascinating.
Now a bestseller, the book is sold in over 30 different countries, and hit top of the charts in USA, Brazil, Portugal and Turkey. In the UK alone it has sold more than one million copies. It’s also in the process of being considered for a screenplay, and, in a previous World Book Day poll, was recognised as one of the top 10 most life changing books for teenagers. There’s even a sequel. In The World According to Bob: the further adventure of one man and his street-wise cat we examine James’ continuing relationship with Bob post- stardom. Over on Youtube, Bob is a media sensation- there is footage of everything from him strolling through Covent Garden to appearing on This Morning.
For as long as I can remember, i’ve always been a fan of cats, and them, me. I find them utterly beguiling: the way they wrap themselves around your legs and purrrr incessantly until you stroke them or give them so food; they’re great at getting what they want. I also admire their innate sense of pride- a dog will never turn it’s nose up at something or someone in the same way that a cat does- they’re far too obedient for that. For these reasons, winning a cat’s affections can often prove an uphill struggle. Unless your cat’s called Bob that is.
A Street Cat Named Bob is a must read for all lovers of animals and/ or rights of passage novels. Purchase it online now at Amazon.