We all have a book that is special to us. The book we reread on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon, curled up by a roaring fire. The book we turn to at times of sorrow or illness, which makes us feel better just by picking it up, as we anticipate reconnecting with characters we know as well as our own family. The book which we could probably quote large chunks from without even opening it, but the ending has us just as gripped as the first time we read it.
I have several such favourites but probably the top of my comfort reading list is the The Cat who Came in from the Cold by Deric Longden. It may sound strange, but it has become an essential part of my grieving process – I turned to it when I lost my last cat some years ago and it has brought me some peace now as I grieve for the Princess.
Deric Longden was a writer and broadcaster who came relatively late to the joys of being owned by a cat. This book is the story of his conversion, as he adopts a lively young white kitten, who he and his wife, writer Aileen Armitage, name Thermal. (It’s a long story – you will have to read the book to see how they came up with that one!)
They have ups and downs that all cat people will recognise – the anguish when a cat is ill or goes missing, the tremendous fun to be had with a playful kitten and the touching bond between a man and his cat. Thermal does have some more unusual adventures though and his relationship with his pet sultana will bring a tear to your eye, it is such a tender demonstration of love.
Longden’s writing has a very light touch and can have you laughing one minute and crying the next. His retelling of conversations with the cats in his life is masterly and he is surrounded by a supporting cast of true Yorkshire characters. Think a modern James Herriot with a focus on cats and you will be nearly there.
By the end of the book, Thermal has gained a couple of friends and the Longdens’ fate as a cat family is sealed forever. I take great comfort in the warm tone and feeling, at least for a time, like I am part of the family. I am also in awe of the skill with which it is written. Deric Longden wrote a number of books about his cats and I will undoubtedly read those too in the coming months. However, he doesn’t shy away from the harder aspects of sharing a life with cats and I will need a little more strength and distance before I can face some of what I know is to come.
Spoiler alert – in case anyone is worrying, I think I am right in saying that Thermal lived to a very ripe old age and The Cat who Came in from the Cold does have a happy ending.
If you too share your lives with a cat, or wish you did, please give this book a try. I promise it will brighten your day!