Title: The Cat at the wall
Author: Deborah Ellis
Genre: Contemporary YA
Opens: … My name is still Clare …
Blurb: On Israel’s West Bank, a cat sneaks into a small Palestinian house that has just been commandeered by two Israeli soldiers. The house seems empty, until the cat realizes that a little boy is hiding beneath the floorboards. When the little boy is discovered, the soldiers don’t know what to do with him. Where are the child’s parents? Why has he been left alone in the house? And what can a cat do?
My Thoughts: The little cat that is the narrator of the story is not your typical cat. This cat is Clare, or was Clare rather, as Clare is apparently dead and cat is her reincarnated form. The cat tells of how she just woke up a cat on the wall between Israel and Palestine, retaining her memories of her former human life – and how she has to hunt for food and evade other cats that beat her up. Life for a cat on a warfront is portrayed very well, and a clever way to get the reader to understand the issues and see the humanity of both sides. In the news reports you just get to see the atrocities, without a thought for what drives people to these actions. I still don’t sympathise with cruelty from either side – but do understand to a small extent why they might happen. So the little cat tells two stories – the story of the boy and the soldiers, and the story of Clare’s life just before she arrived in cat form.
Towards the end the little cat ponders its future – is life here temporary and she just needs to do some good deed before she can continue onto heaven? Is ‘Clare’ in a coma back in the USA and this is all a crazy dream? Will she be a cat forever? These are unanswered questions; long after the adventure is finished the reader gets to contemplate what they would like the final outcome to be. My view? I’d go for the coma theory – but I would have liked a finite answer to the little cat’s fate.
The Cat at the wall simplifies the complex issues between the two warring parties and wil help younger teens understand, a little, of why this is happening today. There is a balanced mix of adventure, drama and history. The escalating violence being tempered by the point of view of the little cat:
"…If people insist on shooting other people, they should do it quietly so that a cat can have a decent nap…"
The Desiderata poem plays an important part as it links the two children together, past American girl and present Palestinian boy both know the poem well – for one it is comfort, the other torture. Here is the poem:
Desiderata by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful.
Strive to be happy.
For more about the author – Click Here
B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.
With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $16.99