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On Cats [Hardcover]

Doris Lessing

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Book Description

Sept. 29 2008

Doris Lessing's love affair with cats began at a young age, when she became intrigued with the semiferal creatures on the African farm where she grew up. Her fascination with the handsome, domesticated creatures that have shared her flats and her life in London remained undiminished, and grew into real love with the awkwardly lovable El Magnifico, the last cat to share her home.

On Cats is a celebrated classic, a memoir in which we meet the cats that have slunk and bullied and charmed their way into Doris Lessing's life. She tells their stories—their exploits, rivalries, terrors, affections, ancient gestures, and learned behaviors—with vivid simplicity. And she tells the story of herself in relation to cats: the way animals affect her and she them, and the communication that grows possible between them—a language of gesture and mood and desire as eloquent as the spoken word. No other writer conveys so truthfully the real interdependence of humans and cats or convinces us with such stunning recognition of the reasons why cats really matter.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (Sept. 29 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061672246
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061672248
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 12.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #280,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“Ms. Lessing applies her formidable powers of observation to the beasts she calls ‘exotic visitors, household friends.’” (Wall Street Journal)

“Endearing and wise.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“[Lessing] captures the passionate gregariousness of her cats...What she does best is describe their relations with one another...Doris Lessing...opens our eyes to the world of cats.” (New York Times)

“Lessing’s prose catches at the heart, close-ups of cats in unforgettable word paintings.” (Pittsburg Tribune Review)

About the Author

Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature, Doris Lessing was one of the most celebrated and distinguished writers of our time, the recipient of a host of international awards, including the Somerset Maugham Award, the David Cohen Memorial Prize for British Literature, the James Tait Black Prize for best biography, Spain's Prince of Asturias Prize and Prix Catalunya, and the S. T. Dupont Golden PEN Award for a Lifetime's Distinguished Service to Literature.

Lessing was born of British parents in Persia on October 22, 1919, and moved with her family to Southern Rhodesia when she was five years old. She went to England in 1949, where she published her first book, The Grass Is Singing, and began her career as a professional writer. In 1962, she broke new ground with her novel The Golden Notebook. She wrote more than thirty books—among them the novels Martha Quest, The Fifth Child, and her last work Alfred and Emily; stories, reportage, poems, and plays; and several nonfiction works, including books about cats, and two volumes of autobiography, Walking in the Shade and Under My Skin. She died on November 17, 2013. Her portrait hangs in London's National Portrait Gallery.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Remember it is Doris Lessing on cats Dec 3 2009
By dantera - Published on Amazon.com
My prior experience with Doris Lessing was "Descent Into Hell", so I wasn't expecting a fluff piece on the cuteness of cats when I picked up this book, but that said I do agree with another reviewer (K. Bell) that the number of kitten killings was a bit over the top. I certainly understand life and death are inseparable and do not wish the grimmer realities of owning cats to be tucked behind cute aphorisms; one of the things I enjoyed about this book was that she deftly described many aspects and periods of cat life. However, a little birth control goes a long way, and it was never adequately explained why she was so willing to choose offing the kittens rather than fixing the cats. She seemed to think they were less fully cats or something...I suppose I'm not a complete human either then since I'm on the pill ;)
Still, the writing is fantastic, and it's probably worth a read if you enjoy musing on cat behaviours.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars HORRIBLE book! NOT for cat lovers!!!! May 21 2012
By Arwen - Published on Amazon.com
If I could give this book zero stars, I would. I agree completely with the other reviewers about her gruesome descriptions of killing the unwanted kittens. And her objections to getting her cats spayed so there wouldn't be so many unwanted kittens is just absurd. She writes the repeated matings of her females as if it was some romance novel, not the biological function it is, attributing absurd human emotions to the cats. GET YOUR FEMALES SPAYED, YOU IDIOT!

I love cats and I read the whole thing, hoping it would get better at the end. Finally toward the end, there was less about killing kittens, but there was still a complete lack of emotion from the author. I saw absolutely NO love or caring for any of the cats who had the unfortunate luck to share their lives with her. She was chronicling what happened with the cats, in a very impartial, unemotional way. No emotional connection whatsoever to any of her cats.

I absolutely do NOT recommend this book for cat lovers. I honestly don't know what audience it was intended for. Cat haters maybe?

PLEASE do not purchase this book! Do not support this insult to cats everywhere.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars highly recommendable June 1 2013
By catty88 - Published on Amazon.com
This is an excellent books on cats. It is unsentimental, yet full of warmth and beautifully written. The domestic tensions between black cat and grey develop the drive of an enjoyable thriller. Killing cats and kittens forms as much a part of Lessing's experience as caring devotedly (and grimly) for a cat on death's door, or rescuing a wild cat and her litter after a rainstorm and feeding sauteed chicken liver to her queenly grey cat. Cats are respected as individuals, even fussed over, yet Lessing never loses her clear-sighted, self-ironic stance, which gives her writing a roominess and poignancy not often found in the literature on animals. By writing on cats Lessing has really written a book about life: this is as much a book about the relationships between cats as it is about cats and humans, about death, friendships, kittens and the passing of time - Very recommendable.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars too bloody Nov. 25 2010
By Xuan Zheng - Published on Amazon.com
Doris, Why would you kill a litter of kittens you caught only because they are too "wild"? All these kittens can be tamed to be house pets, why did you and your mother killed them?
3.0 out of 5 stars A lazy work from the great Doris Lessing May 1 2014
By Shivaji Das - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Would appeal to all cat lovers. However, it's a relatively lazy work from the great Doris Lessing. Anthropomorphizing animal behaviours is not advised by scientists and perhaps Lessing could have talked more about the deaths of her beloved cats which is surprisingly missing from the book.

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