August – A cat called Dog by Jem Vanston

Late again,  this month but I do already have the book for September so maybe I can catch up with myself!

Will update when I have finished this 🙂
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Phew! It was a race to the finish line with this one – I turned the last page on the way to the library to hand this back!

This was a really interesting read – not because of the plot (though admittedly, that was perfectly adequate) but because it was self-published and until now, I didn’t realise that libraries carried self-published titles.

So let’s back up a bit. Confession time – I used to work for a “vanity publisher”.

It was horrible. When I started, I was fresh out of university, incredibly naive and I thought I had landed the job of the century. The people who owned (and, I presume, still own) the company did everything they could to hide the nature of the publishing contracts from the employees and so for the longest time, I had no idea what I was a part of – namely a process designed to con writers out of their money in exchange for sloppily produced books. When I figured it out I quit immediately, but I’ve felt really awkward about self-published work ever since – guilty, I think, because I worry the author has been somehow fleeced.

So, I was slow to start reading ‘A Cat called Dog’ for this reason. In my head, I sort of amalgamated the authors I’d worked with into one human called Jem Vanston and felt terrible about myself every time I went to pick the book up.

But I promised I’d read what Husband chose for me, and so I took a step back and got stuck in.

And honestly, I was really impressed. As I say, I’ve been avoiding self-published works for years but the quality of the editing was superb. For example, I only found one typo in the whole thing – a feat which many large companies fail to accomplish. The cover was good and whilst I would never have selected the book based on the blurb, it obviously worked on Husband.

It’s like a whole new world of stories has opened before me.

But anyway… back to this book.

It’s the antithesis of anything I would have ever chosen myself – a small, quaint story about talking animals. That said, it wasn’t unreadable, wasn’t boring (as, to be honest, I’d feared) and it was quick – a much underrated quality in a world full of things vying for our attention.

The plot follows a small kitten-cat called Dog as an older tom – George – teaches him the fine art of being a feline. Along the way, George’s place in his family home is threatened by the arrival of a fiance. When it becomes evident that the fiance is not all he appears, George, Dog and a cast of other cats set out to foil The Man’s plan.

It was a fun little tale, though I can’t help but feel that had the author neglected to add the section about sex and catnip, it could have been a really workable piece of children’s fiction – aimed at solid readers in a younger age-group, such as Daughter. It’s really difficult to find things for her to read which are a) thematically appropriate for an eight year old and b) linguistically complex enough to satisfy. Though a real lover of fiction, she tends to spend a lot of time reading non-fiction as this is an easy eay to cover both bases.

Regardless – whilst I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend this, or to own a copy myself, I remain really glad that I’ve read it. It represents opportunity.