An extraordinary book from Doris Lessing. This writer, famous for her incomparably perceptive analysis of herself, of society of people, now looks at cats: the cats she knew in childhood - sunning themselves in the hot African sun, running wild in answer to mating calls from the bush - and later, cats on English rooftops, cats on cold London pavements, cats on doorsteps looking for a house to settle in.
Particularly, she explores the relationship between the two cats who live with her - a spoiled, exquisite, domineering grey, and a sturdy, modest, uncomplaining black. With an infallibly precise eye and a direct honesty that keeps her from sentimentalizing, she finds the key to their contrasting characters in the contrasting way they live their lives.
She watches them as mothers: grey cat must be forced to lie with her kittens, would much rather desert them to flirt with guests; black cat is proudest when surrounded by a litter, most entertaining when initiating them into the use of the cat box.
She takes them to the country: black cat discovers the secret attraction of hearth and fire, grey cat prefers hunting in the tall grasses. She compares their methods of awakening her in the morning - a gentle caress on the nose from grey cat; from black, repeated thudding leaps from bed to floor.
Above all she recognizes her cats never-ending competition for her own affection and, with the sensitivity and clarity natural to a first-rate novelist, recreates the subtleties of their polite but remorseless rivalry. It is a tribute to her tact and understanding that she gives voice to this silent battle of green and yellow eyes, interprets the complex language of cat envy, without ever violating the integrity of the creatures she describes. Mrs. Lessing does not forget that these are creatures forever alien, that the world behind their eyes is impenetrable to us - that they are, particularly, cats.