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Matthew Flinders' Cat (2002)

Matthew Flinders' Cat (2002)

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3.74 of 5 Votes: 2
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0670910619 (ISBN13: 9780670910618)

About book Matthew Flinders' Cat (2002)

Despite the title, this is primarily the story of Billy O’Shannessy - once a prominent lawyer, now an alcoholic derelict sleeping rough - and Ryan, an 11 year old boy who Billy recognises as having a bright mind and showing great potential, but who is cared for by a grandmother in the last stages of cancer and a mother who is an “exotic dancer” and a heroin addict.Through listening to this book, I found out more than I ever needed to know about alcoholism, homelessness, drug addiction and paedophilia, but it definitely gave me an empathy for the way people in these various groups live their lives (not for the men involved in paedophilia rings - who knew there were groups that preyed on young boys? Or am I just an innocent who never realised this?! - but for the poor boys caught up in this trap). Despite his alcoholism, I felt a connection to Billy - although he lived as a derelict, he didn’t abandon his good manners, and was always pleasant and polite as he dealt with people.Billy meets Ryan near the State Library of NSW, where a bronze statue of Trim, Matthew Flinders’ cat, rests on a window sill. I can’t remember how it came about, but Billy starts to tell Ryan the story of Trim Flinders each time they meet (and do I admit my ignorance of the life of Matthew Flinders’ cat at this point?? Is this meant to be common knowledge? I’m sure I was never taught it at school…) and both Billy and Ryan come to identify with Trim in one way or another. Billy's fictional account of Trim's adventures made for a welcome respite from the stories of life on the streets of Kings Cross - and Ryan seemed to view these times as a bit of escapism as well.But Billy has his own demons to fight, and Ryan is placed in a very difficult position and it is easy to see how people can get caught in situations which they never intended, perhaps through no fault of their own.This is my first Bryce Courtenay, and while I’m sorry that he is no longer alive to write more wonderful books like this, and I am also sorry that it has taken me this long before I read one of his books, I’m also glad that I still have so many more of his works to read!

There sure are a lot of folks who don't like Bryce Courtenay's books, and this one sure had mixed reviews. I like a good story, and so I am a fan of Bryce Courtenay. I've never been to Australia, but one day I hope that I will make it there. First, the narrator-- Humphrey Bower is one of my very favorite audible book narrators. He makes listening to Mr. Courtenay's books totally enjoyable...FIVE stars! The story. Wow, this is a dark one, for sure. This is about alcoholism and drug addcition. It's about child abuse. Billy O'Shannessy is a once successful barrister who has ended up living in a park, and he's a drunk. There's a story within a story, and the story about about "Trim" the cat was one aspect of this book I didn't care for. I found my attention wandering during the tales of a cat that travels around Australia to just not grab my attention.However, I liked Billy O'Shannessy. I felt pity for him, and I had great to admire his character... being a "derro" and all. As the relationship with young Ryan takes shape, the book swings into a Part II. Now we get into rehab, and this is where I began to relate to this. Nope, I'm not an alcoholic or drug addict in recovery. However, a close family member of mine is/was, and I attended classes on addiction. I also went to some Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings. So, I felt a true connection to this part of the story. I could relate.But the dark twists begin as Billy O'Shannessy becomes entangled in the world of pedophiles. I did, pretty much, figure out where the plot was going. Still, unlike some reviews, I found the story intriguing enough to want to continue on "listening" to see how things play out.I just finished listening to the story, and I'm left with a deep sense of sorrow about the statistics in this book that say one in four children are sexually abused. Is this only in Australia, or is this world-wide. Being a mom, this really touched a nerve in me. Overall, it's a good story but not one of my top favorites Bryce Courtenay has written.

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This was a book about an alcoholic and a homeless one at that. The first part described what life was like for a derelict like Billy O'Shannessy. At first, I was not really impressed by his character and I wondered why government and charity organizations spent dole money on these parasitic members of society.The second part onward was the gem of the book. The author illustrated why alcohol and drugs addiction are impossible to cure with sheer will power and why they ended up addicted to death. The book also showed why and how some people ended up as junkies and alcoholic, and how it's not always entirely their fault. The description of the child support system and juvenile reform center truly horrified me. It was painful to read that an orphaned child most likely got raped or abused in foster homes instead of finding a warm welcoming family.It seemed like the government just didn't care about what happen to the dregs of its society. The statistic that one in four girls and one in seven boys were sexually abused absolutely floored me, and this was happening in a country where the law didn't have a definition for pedophile let alone charges against them. To think that repeated child sexual offenders and people who assisted in trafficking and forcing children to be prostitutes could get away with only a couple of years in jail is beyond disgusting, as they probably as good as destroyed those children's futures.

Loved this book, Bryce Courtney is such a good story teller, but he certainly doesn't pack any punches and the story is quite brutal and graphic. But then life isn't a bed of roses for many people, especially for the characters in the book who are probably a fairly accurate portrayal of people living that way every day.The end came far too quick for me, it was like he suddenly ran out of pages and the conclusion seemed rushed. After all the build up throughout it was left feeling a little flat, but I did enjoy reading it and really I couldn't put it down.
—Sue Webber

A friend loaned this book to me, and because of her I struggled through it. My lack of enthusiasm for the book is due to my total lack of interest/empathy/connection with the two main characters, who are a homeless drunken ex-barrister (Billy) and a streetwise boy (Ryan). I simply didn't care how their story ended. Far more offputting, however, is that the eponymous cat thinks. And talks. And steers a ship. On a positive note, the descriptions of Sydney are spot-on, and I won't be able to pass the cat's statue outside the state library without wondering which bench Billy favoured.
—Elizabeth Krall

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