I cannot begin to tell you how excited we are to tell you about this new book by L. A. Vocelle of The Great Cat. We have been longing for a book just exactly like Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, but nothing we’ve seen quite fits the bill. In fact, we were starting to think that we would have to spend years researching and writing to create a book just like this, but fortunately, Vocelle has done the hard work, and now we can all benefit from it.
Cats, from prehistory to the present
Revered and Reviled starts way back in time, with the ancestors of the first true cats. But don’t worry—you won’t have to read page after page of things that happened millions of years ago. The rise of the cat family is dealt with in just a couple of pages, and then it’s straight in to domestic cats, their characteristics and history. The chapter on cats in ancient Egypt is one of the best summations we have read on this subject—detailed but succinct, and we think most importantly, easily understandable. Egyptian culture is…well, let’s just call it complex. It’s easy to get confused about which god or goddess did what where when, but Vocelle manages to keep it straight for us.
Next, it’s on to one of old SoLT’s favorite topics, the early Aegean and Mediterranean. Most importantly from our point of view, we have been trying for months to find information on cats and the Phoenicians, and Vocelle delivers some—not a lot, but we suppose that is an indication of how little information there is. From there the book moves on to cats in Greece and Rome, and then into the Dark Ages and beyond. Along the way, the text describes how cats were depicted in works of art, and we learn how changes in religion affected how cats were viewed. We especially enjoyed the section on cats in Islam, a subject we knew very little about. Other interesting and informative sections cover cats in India, China, and Japan.
I won’t touch on every subject or time period Vocelle covers, so let’s skip a few centuries and move on to the 20th century. Did you know that someone attempted to take a cat on an airship crossing of the Atlantic in 1910? (The word “attempted” is a key part of that sentence.) Or that a street cat became the first cat sent into space in 1963? Just some of the little tidbits you’ll take away.
Cat illustrations and so much more
If you’re familiar at all with The Great Cat, you won’t be surprised to learn that Revered and Reviled is richly illustrated. Cats have appeared in art from ancient times through to the Internet age, and through this book, you’ll learn at least a little bit about each period. Yes, you’ll even learn about cats in movies, music, literature…
The illustrations and quotes are terrific, but there is far more of value in this book. I am talking here of the supplemental information: a timeline covering cats in history from 20 million years ago to the opening of the first cat café (in 1998), a list of Theban tombs with cats (so useful!), a list of cat cemeteries in Egpyt, and a reference list (again, so useful!).
Except for some small subset of you, Revered and Reviled is probably not a book that you will sit down and read from cover to cover. Yes, it’s well written, and yes, it’s fascinating, but there’s a lot here to digest. Unless you’re a serious history buff, it can look overwhelming. I’d recommend that you start by dipping in and taking a look at the chapters or sections that most interest you. Do that, and I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be turning the page to find out “What about this…?” and you’ll be staying up way past your bedtime (at least that is what happened to us).
As I said at the start, this is exactly the book we have been dreaming of. It will have a treasured space on our cat-history bookshelf for years to come, and you can bet that it will be well used.
A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!
We received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. We wouldn’t tell you it was good unless we really liked it!
The link below is an Amazon Associates link. If you purchase the book through this link, old SoLT and I could get some coin for our kibble account. Thank you!