Book Review: Chinese Whiskers

If the title of this book evokes vague flashes of cats wandering about in China, then you have already captured the theme of what this is all about. Pet cats in china and their pampered lives described in a contemporary witty style is all this book is about.

Book Highlights:

The narrative of this book, unsurprisingly is carried on mostly from the perspective of two pet cats adopted by a foreigner resident in China. The author has kept the plot lines clean and the number of characters relatively finite which means the book is easy to read. The relaxed storyline also makes it easy to enjoy the minutiae witticisms sprinkled throughout the book. Even the names of the lead cats, Soybean and Tofu contributes to the flavourful Chinese background in which the book is set.

What works for the book?

  1. Tales told from a non-human perspective aren’t always successful in capturing the reader’s interest but this author has just hit the right tones without conferring an overly feline quality to the tone and tenor of conversations between the lead cats.
  2. Tiny humour and spot on witticisms are hard to weave into such a relaxed story line but the author manages to pull it off.
  3. Recent historical events in China are referenced and woven into the story in just enough detail without spoiling the storyline which lends the entire book an aura of authenticity while preserving its fable like character. The over arching theme of the book, the tainted pet food scandal has roots in real world incidence while the erstwhile SARS outbreak evokes viscereal reactions within the reader enduring the current covid outbreak.

What could have been better:

  1. While the author has clearly intended this book as a light and funny read, I found myself wishing that the real world incidents referenced in the book had been dealt with in a bit more nuanced way and the plot line consequently more intricate.
  2. The book has managed to touch down in the no-man’s land between a funny Amelia Jane ish children’s fable and a grown up’s sensitivity & engagement with the world viewed through the prism of governmental ineptitude and a small minded villian’s greed. As a reader, I found myself wishing that the book conforms to an alley that I could hyphenate: Do I recommend it to a young nephew as a modern day fable or do I recommend it to an adult as a tome of fantasy set down in an all too real world?

Verdict: Yay! Fun and witty read on a lazy saturday afternoon.

Note: This is not a paid review but this blog received a free reviewer’s copy.


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