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26 February 2013

Reviewed by an infuriated Glenda Johnson.

I very rarely if ever write a bad review, I’m all too aware of how devastating a bad review can be to a writer, (particularly if it’s grossly unfair as was one that Lyn received a couple of years ago, in which the reviewer seemed to have a personal grudge against her and also seemed to be reviewing the book HE had wanted to read, rather than the one she’d actually written.) This time however I was so deeply disappointed in the book that I’ve made an exception in view also of the fact that the author died some years ago and isn’t here to be wounded by my opinions.

I started reading the Cat Who series when they were originally UK published back in the ’60s. Owing to various events I missed the final book, (60 Whiskers) but had read and owned all the books until that one. I heard when Lilian died, and heard also that she had been halfway through the next book when she passed away and that the publishers weren’t going to have it finished by someone else and publish it. I wondered why not, the series is a best seller. Then the other month I finally got around to obtaining a copy a copy of The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, the last published in the series, and was horrified (and enlightened) when I read it. One of the two major characters, Polly is a doting cat-lover and owner of two adored Siamese. Polly is selling her home and would have a large sum of money available to her. So how likely is it that a devoted cat-lover with ample funds at her disposal would merely dump her two adored cats on anyone at all (apparently she couldn’t care less) who’ll give them a home when she is offered a three-year job in France? To equal that in unfortunate developments, Qwill’s wonderful apple barn, a feature and pretty much another character in many of the books, is burned down. He seems to be quite unconcerned about either Polly’s decision to go and live in France while arbitrarily discarding her beloved cats, or that his terrific home has been lost along with everything in it, and within days he is considering another woman and ignoring two abandoned cats that he’s known for years when he himself is a devout cat-lover. Oh please! These developments are completely out of character for both Qwill and Polly. They ring with all the lusterless quality of a cracked bell.

I went on line once I’d finished the book and read a number of reviews. All those I read agree with me and are equally horrified by the quality of the work. But something else that most readers/reviewers do not appear to have noticed. This volume had problems in quite another way. Yes, the author did tend to write shorter books, but not as brief as this one. I did a rough word count and the book is far shorter than her usual book length. It’s been laid out in such a way this isn’t noticeable to readers, (unless you know how long it takes you to read any book, and find you seem to be racing thorough this one at startling speed. That was when I counted.) And I’d put it around 35-37,000 words. About 60% of her usual quantity. So I was disappointed twice over and have discarded the book. It may be as well that the book she was halfway through writing when she died wasn’t finished and published, because if that one was of similar length and quality, we, her eager readers, were better off without it.

Mind you, Lilian was in her 90s when the book was written, however this is why you have editors. Her editor should have picked up on the disappointment readers would suffer and the stated decision by a number of readers not to buy more in the series since they found this one of such abysmal quality. The editor should have realized that such a massive change in characterization would produce such an outcome, and that the book has no real or effective ending, but just seems to lie down and die without resolution. I will be retaining all of the series save this one, I have always loved the books, but I have no desire to have this final book on my shelves, let alone to ever read it again. In fact I’m hoping to forget it as soon and thoroughly as possible so that it doesn’t spoil my enjoyment of and my re-reading of the other 28 volumes in future. But frankly, I can only wonder of what the publisher was thinking when they brought out this mess of mischaracterization, failure to achieve an ending let alone a climax, and this novella-thinly-disguised-as-a-book at book price. In some of the comments on this book a very few readers apparently felt that the quality of the work was excused by the writer’s age. I would point out that Andre Norton was 93 when she died and her last book, finished only a few months earlier, was of good quality. Arthur C. Clarke was 90, Ray Bradbury died at 91 still producing quality work. When this book was published, presumably under the impression that readers would buy on the name and the publisher would make their usual amount on it, they did the author a considerable disservice. Because this book is how many of her fans will remember her.


  1. You are right. But it is a shame that many will remember her for her
    last book because of the way it is being presented. She gave her life giving us 28 other books that will still be read for many years to come. I hope to leave mine to my granddaughters for inspiration to let them know that there are still wonderfully written books out there for us to share. Lilian Jackson Braun gave us her best and we should remember her for that. She didn’t let us down with her last book; we are letting her down by not remembering that she was human and had given us all she had to give. God Rocks < b

    Comment by Barbara Sparks — 9 July 2014 @ 14:15

  2. I agree with both of you, I know how disappointed Glenda was when she finally read this book, and I was too. I blame her publishers who should have foreseen reader reactions and not allowed this to be the last people read of the author. But as Barbara says, she left a legacy of many other wonderful books and those are what I shall remember.
    Lyn McConchie.

    Comment by lyn — 13 July 2014 @ 13:07

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