The Year Of The Cat by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

The Year of the Cat by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Published by Tinder Press on 19th January

Available from West End Lane Books and

All Good Bookshops

What They Say

I looked around at my flat, at the woodchip wallpaper and scuffed furniture, and realised that I did have a life after all. What it didn’t have in it was a cat.

When Rhiannon fell in love with, and eventually married her flatmate, she imagined they might one day move on. But this is London in the age of generation rent, and so they share their home with a succession of friends and strangers while saving for a life less makeshift. The desire for a baby is never far from the surface, but can she be sure that she will ever be free of the anxiety she has experienced since an attack in the street one night? And after a childhood spent caring for her autistic brother does she really want to devote herself to motherhood?

Moving through the seasons over the course of lockdown, The Year of the Cat nimbly charts the way a kitten called Mackerel walked into Rhiannon’s home and heart, and taught her to face down her fears and appreciate quite how much love she had to offer.

What I Say

The pandemic and lockdown we all went through now seems for me to be a time I can remember parts of, but also feels slightly surreal, like it happened to someone else. It is also undeniably a shared collective memory that will forever unite a generation who lived through it, and I am endlessly fascinated to read people’s accounts of their experiences as a way to understand mine.

The Year of the Cat by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett takes us through that period as Rhiannon and her husband decide to get a kitten, and while this memoir may start as a love letter to cats, and the irrefutable impact that they have had on women’s lives and the stories that surround them, this book evolves beautifully into one that holds so much in its pages.

This is a book not only about Rhiannon’s experiences of owning cats through her life and how Mackerel her kitten came to be such a part of it during the pandemic, but it is also an honest and visceral memoir about trauma, PTSD, mental health, motherhood, family and caring.

Adopting Mackerel during such a strange and unknown time, when going outside became something we would never take for granted again, means that as well as focussing on Mackerel and how to look after him, Rhiannon has plenty of time to be alone with thoughts and memories. Unimaginable events that Rhiannon has lived through – a vicious assault by a stranger, and being in Paris at the very time terrorist attacks were taking place, leads her to think about her past and future, as she contemplates whether having mental health issues impact her ability to be a mother.

What Rhiannon captures so perfectly in these pages is the thoughts that so many of us have, but are afraid to articulate for fear of being judged for having them. I had an overwhelming desire to have children, but believing that my own emotional shortcomings and the fact that I didn’t know if I could care for a human being when I found it difficult to look after myself, led me to write my own lengthy diary entries as to the pros and cons of me taking that step. Reader I did, which for my first child led me down paths I never dreamed I would ever follow.

This leads me to the other part of Rhiannon’s memoir that resonated deeply with me as a full time carer, and led me to use up all the post it notes I had to hand. Rhiannon’s brother is severely autistic and in a care home, and the lockdown leads to a heartbreaking separation for them. What Rhiannon does so wonderfully in her memoir is not only to articulate what it means to not be able to visit the ones we love, but also what it means to care for someone who has special needs. The love you have is overwhelming, but like Rhiannon and her Mum, you cannot explain to someone what it means to be a full time carer unless they have lived it. To understand what it means to be in a constant state of fighting for everything and explaining repeatedly the same story told in numerous ways according to which professional and which department you are talking to. Rhiannon writes with an innate compassion and understanding that made me teary a few times, because I knew exactly what she and her Mum were feeling.

To read Rhiannon’s memories of living with her brother and mother, and the highs and lows of that time, along with some brilliant anecdotes – including an unforgettable supermarket visit I don’t think anyone will ever forget, added another layer of humanity to this unforgettable memoir, and I loved it. As Rhiannon starts to question her own ability to be a mother, we as readers already know that her lived experiences have given her so much experience already, and that we will her to see what an amazing Mum she will be, and hope she gets exactly what she desires.

The Year of The Cat will connect with many people in many different ways because Rhiannon writes about her own experiences with such candour that you cannot fail to be moved. It is also the first time I have read a book that describes so perfectly the numerous internal conversations about motherhood and the responsibilities of caring for someone else which I had before having children, and that that are still part of my world twenty one years after having my first child, which is why I will endlessly recommend Rhiannon’s book.

I absolutely loved it.

Thank you so much to Mary-Anne Harrington and Tinder Press for my gifted proof copy.

And Just Like That, 2022 is done

I’m not quite sure why I am writing this blog post on the last day of 2022. I haven’t read a huge number of books this year, I’ve been at times lackadaisical in posting on my blog, and have often felt like Twitter and Instagram have been changing the rules so often that I have no clue as to what the best way is to shout about books anymore!

Book blogging has been my thing for such a long time now, and while it’s introduced me to a world where I finally feel that I belong, has given me opportunities I could never have dreamed of, and has given me incredible friendships I now couldn’t be without, I am ending 2022 feeling a bit lost.

I am a firm believer in being honest about my blogging, and as 2022 comes to a close, and 2023 looms large, honestly, I have been feeling overwhelmed with it all at the moment. It’s hard to keep the energy and enthusiasm sometimes – I still love reading but by December (probably like lots of you!) I felt a bit like I was back on the bookish conveyor belt of reading books in a certain order so that I am ready to review them for publication date.

I have taken a complete break from social media over Christmas – and it’s been lovely. I’ve watched a lot of films, spent a lot of time with my family and put my phone down for days – which not surprisingly has meant I have read a lot more! It has been so refreshing to just sit and read without constantly thinking of what I am going to say in my review, and instead have just read for the sake of reading!

There are a few things I know I want to do now. I need to feel confident in my voice again, and find the joy in blogging. For me, it’s hard to keep posting when you feel like no one is listening – I know it shouldn’t matter, but when I read a brilliant book, I just want to make sure as many people as possible know, and honestly, I still get frustrated sometimes because I don’t know the most effective way to do it, and feel like I have let the authors down.

Having a chance to pause over Christmas has also given me time to think and reflect on Years Of Reading Selfishly and what I want it to be going forward next year. I am sure no one is really bothered, but for me I need to feel enthusiastic about it or I just won’t do anything! Perhaps in writing this blog post I am making myself accountable and can look back on it in 2023 to make sure I actually do what I say.

When the brilliant author Harriet Evans wrote her article for The Bookseller this year about how women over 45 love books, and that the book trade should love them back, I was lucky enough to be quoted in the article, and I also felt that Harriet perfectly articulated what I have been thinking for a long time too. As a 52 year old woman, at times I have felt invisible, at one point this year seriously contemplated stopping blogging – but do you know what – I don’t want to lose my voice or feel my thoughts about books don’t matter. There should be room for everyone to talk about the books they love, however they want to do it, and my voice and opinions count – I need to remember that, and make sure that we support each other too.

The other thing I have been thinking about a lot, is how to combine book blogging with being a carer for my adult son. I told you all this year that I am going to keep talking about the realities of caring, because as a society we don’t, and books have given me the perfect peace and space I have needed to recharge this year – because it’s hard and full on sometimes.

In 2023, I want to read and share books written by people who are carers like me, to use my blog as a way to amplify the voices of people whose stories you may not know but need to be heard. I am pulling together a reading pile of books, and am having a think about the best way to do it – more on that soon, but in the meantime I’d also really love it if the publishing industry didn’t do away with online events. Just because book lovers can’t physically be somewhere doesn’t mean we don’t want to take part…

Looking back on what I’ve written it seems like such a lot. It’s up to me now to practise what I have been preaching, but the one thing I know for sure is that while at times I do feel like I am done, that there is also something that keeps me here – and that’s the fact that sharing my love of books and reading brings me joy – and I know that I need that in my life now more than ever.

Here’s to 2023, and all the books we have waiting for us, the love of books that we want to share, and to you, the incredible bookish community who absolutely understand the joy of books, reading and shouting about them!

Lots of love,

Clare

Xxx