Review: “The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man” by Lloyd Alexander

For the love of books

The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man is a witty novel that criticizes human nature and the rigid society that humans have created.

Lionel is a cat who is willingly transformed into a man by his master, Stephanus.  Venturing into the neighboring town, Lionel tries to remain uncorrupted while living among humans.  He finds unexpected friends and unknowingly makes dangerous enemies, making this novel fast-paced and adventurous.  An interesting addition to this clever satire is the frequent use of the Latin language by one of the characters, who is a doctor.

Stephanus himself can be compared to God in his critical remarks about his past dealings with people.  Lloyd Alexander’s wit and wisdom are vividly shown in memorable excerpts from the beginning of the novel:

… ‘Bees don’t sting so spitefully as humans; ants work harder. When I first came there, the folk of Brightford were tilling their soil with pointed sticks. I pitied them in those days. So I gave them a gift: all the secrets of metalworking. I taught them to forge iron for plows, rakes, and hoes.’ … ‘Tools? They made swords and spears! There’s not one gift I gave them they didn’t turn inside out, upside down, and wrong side to. They were a feeble, sickly lot, so I taught them to use roots and herbs for medicines. They found a way to brew deadly poisons. I taught them to make mild wine; they distilled strong brandy! I taught them to raise cows and horses as helpful friends; they turned them into drudges. Selfish creatures! They care for nothing, not even for each other. Love? They love only gold.’ … ‘You can’t eat it. You can’t drink it. It’s yellow dirt, nothing more. But those fools turned it into coins; round, flat bits of metal. Money, as they call it. By any name, worthless. But they’ll do anything to get their hands on it.’ …

~ excerpts from “Chapter 1: In Which Lionel Begs a Favor” in The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man by Lloyd Alexander

Original review: Who could wish to be a man?, Examiner.com

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