Not one for cat photos or memes of cute fluffballs, I was apprehensive at first going into Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s memoir, The Year of the Cat: A Love Story. Yet, there is so much condensed in this book about femininity, it was impossible not to fall in love with its charms. Exploring trauma, motherhood, fear, vulnerability, and of course feline friendship, there is more to this than you’d initially think and, for a woman in her thirties without children, has many relatable seeds.
The Year of the Cat documents the entrance of cat Mackerel into Rhiannon’s life after marrying her flatmate. Living in London in a time of steep rent prices and other financial obstacles, it was inevitable that they wouldn’t move down the conventional route, marriage, kids, etc. However, the question of motherhood is not far from her mind, and this is something this book addresses comprehensively, particularly for a woman that has suffered anxiety from her traumatic experiences in Paris (acts of terrorism at Notre Dame, outside the Charlie Hebdo offices) and London (the man that tried to strangle her).
With an astute awareness, Rhiannon examines how caring for her autistic brother, as well as traumatic experiences, may impact her wish and/or capacity to mother. And the pandemic; well, that just opened up the space to interrogate a lot of these questions, resulting in the decision to get a cat, and in comes Mackerel. And with that, she comes to realise so much more about herself that surprises her.
A lockdown book that navigates care and trauma relentlessly, The Year of the Cat is not simply for cat people; it’s a contemplative book for many a woman contemplating motherhood.
The Year of the Cat by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is out now, published by Tinder Press.