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I got Paul Gallico’sJennie‘ a few years back, because the story looked beautiful, but somehow never got around to reading it. I finally decided a couple of days back that I should take it down from the bookshelf and give it the love it deserved.

In Franz Kafka’sMetamorphosis‘, a man gets up in the morning and discovers that he has been transformed into a giant bug. What happens to him and how he handles that transformation forms the rest of the story. It is dark and bleak. Kafka seems to have been an intense, serious person, and his imagination seems to have flown into dark alleys. In contrast, Paul Gallico seems to have been a happy person. Paul Gallico wonders what will happen, if instead of something dark and bleak like a giant bug, a human being gets transformed into something adorable, like a cat. What happens then? A beautiful book called ‘Jennie‘ happens.

Peter crosses the road to pick up a beautiful kitten. He gets knocked down by a truck. When he wakes up, he discovers that he has been transformed into a cat. His nanny is shocked when she sees a cat in the bed and she throws him out. Peter suddenly finds himself on the street and he discovers that life on the street, as a cat, is hard. Peter discovers that he can be stepped upon by people on the sidewalk, crushed by vehicles on the road or bullied by other cats and sometimes dogs. He tries to find a place to stay, but a big cat which regards that place as his territory bullies him, attacks him, and injures him. When Peter wakes up, he discovers that he is lying on a cozy bed, but he is still a cat. And someone is peering at him. She is a tabby cat with tiger stripes and she says that her name is Jennie, and she rescued him from the street. Before long, Peter and Jennie become close friends. Jennie asks him to tell her his story. Peter hesitates, but decides to tell the truth, that he is a boy who has been transformed into a cat.

Does Jennie believe Peter’s story? What happens to their friendship? What is Jennie’s story? What kind of adventures do Peter and Jennie have? How does Peter find his life as a cat? Does he love it more than when he was a person? Does Peter continue to be a cat at the end or does he get transformed back into a human being? If he does get transformed into a human being, does his friendship with Jennie survive this transformation? The answers to these questions form the rest of the story.

I loved ‘Jennie‘. Peter’s story was fascinating. But my favourite character in the book was Jennie. Jennie is one of coolest, most stylish, awesome cats in literature. I loved her. Though I loved the whole book, my favourite part of the book was the middle part which runs to around six chapters in which Jennie and Peter board a ship and go to Glasgow. The ship has got a motley crew who are hilarious and inefficient (the captain hates sailing, one of the sailors writes cowboy stories, another sailor is big and intimidating but he likes doing embroideries), but the crew members are warm, affectionate and beautiful in surprising ways. The way they take in Jennie and Peter and the hilarious, wonderful adventures that happen during the course of the trip is beautiful to read. I also loved the parts where Jennie inducts Peter into the life of a cat and teaches him survival skills. Paul Gallico’s descriptions of cats and their lives is quite detailed and it looks like they were based on real observations. He had twenty three cats at home and it looks like that gave him a lot of opportunities to observe cats and their ways. Towards the end of the book, I thought that something heartbreaking would happen – either Peter or Jennie would die, or Peter would become a human being again and that would be the end of their friendship. But the author springs up a third ending which was very surprising. I cried after I read the ending.

Jennie‘ is one of my favourite books of the year. I am glad I read my first Paul Gallico book and loved it. I can’t wait to read more of his work. If you love books featuring cats or animal characters, or even if you love books featuring beautiful friendships, I will highly recommend ‘Jennie‘.

I will leave you with one of my favourite passages from the book.

“He had wanted a cat ever since he could remember, which was many years ago at the age of four – when he had gone to stay on a farm near Gerrards Cross, and had been taken into the kitchen and shown a basketful of kittens, orange and white balls of fluff, and the ginger-coloured mother who beamed with pride until her face was quite as broad as it was long, and licked them over with her tongue one after the other. He was allowed to put his hand on her. She was soft and warm, and a queer kind of throbbing was going on inside of her, which later he learned was called purring, and meant that she was comfortable and happy.”

Have you read Paul Gallico’sJennie‘? What do you think about it?

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