Book Review: ‘Street Cat Bob’ by James Bowen

street cat bob

Hello again! I thought it would be good to do a book review for the first time on this blog. I actually already reviewed this book for Booktrust here but I enjoyed the book so much that I thought it deserved its own post. I read the quick reads version of Bob and James’ story (Street Cat Bob rather than A Street Cat Named Bob, which is pictured above) and it was a great way to read the story on a busy lifestyle, however I do sort of wonder what minor bits of the story I may have missed out on, so I think if I ever want to re-read it I’ll probably get the longer version.

I hadn’t actually heard about James and Bob until I read the book so I’m a little behind, considering I think they’ve been famous for quite a while now and have other best-selling books as well as the original A Street Cat Named Bob – most recently (last October) A Gift From Bob was published, and reportedly there’s also a film adaptation in the works!

So if like me you’ve never heard this story before: basically this was an incredibly touching story. That’s reason enough to read it in my opinion. Even if you’re not a cat lover, you will still enjoy this book, trust me. James Bowen describes how he was a recovering drug addict living in sheltered accommodation and busking for a living in London when he met an injured street cat, who he named Bob, who didn’t seem to have a home or an owner to take care of him. So James looked after him for a while, taking him to the vets and generally nursing him back to health for a couple of weeks. But when Bob had recovered, he didn’t want to go back on the streets. He followed James around and became his pet, as well as his best friend. The rest of the book follows the various things they get up to, which I won’t spoil for you. The writing style, while not incredible, flows nicely and is very readable.

Honestly, I know that some people might find this story a bit cheesy, but to me that’s the whole point. It’s an uplifting real life story that will put a smile on your face and brighten your day. We hear so many stories of doom and gloom on the news every day that stories like this, about hope and friendship, are to be treasured.

street cat bob 2

Bob is an extraordinary cat and their friendship is extraordinary as well. I think most of us are aware that cats aren’t always the friendliest animals – they are very independent, and they pretty much do whatever they like. So for Bob to choose to sit on James’ shoulder like a scarf and join him busking or selling The Big Issue is remarkable. Bob is fiercely loyal and always by James’ side.

What also makes this story so wonderful is how there’s some thought-provoking social commentary to be had here. James talks about how when you’re homeless, you lose your identity. People did not want to notice him. Bob gave him back his identity, in a way – and I think that resonates with all of us. I didn’t know until I read Street Cat Bob that the people selling The Big Issue actually have to buy copies of the magazine themselves and then sell them for a profit. We all continually ignore homeless people, possibly because of the awkwardness. We need to stop thinking of homeless people as negatively as we do, and start understanding that the reason they became homeless is probably because of circumstances outside their control. They should be helped, not ostracised.

But I digress: Bob helped James make good money by busking and then by selling The Big Issue. To me, what also makes their story touching is the fact that they helped each other. They turned each other’s lives around. They met each other at low points in their lives and now James is a best-selling author. Bob was helped by James to get well and have a loving home for perhaps the first time, whilst James was helped by Bob to have the responsibility of looking after someone other than himself – he described himself as being a very selfish person when he was on the streets and drug addicted. With Bob, he became more selfless and the bond they formed was life changing. They are both proof that, (as I said in my Booktrust review) that no matter how low things can seem, you always have a second chance.

So, as if I haven’t praised this book enough already – basically, if you haven’t heard about Bob and James, read this book! (Or even if you have heard about them.) You won’t regret it. If you’re thinking that you’re too busy to read at the moment to read the original 288-page book, the quick reads version is perfect for you at 100 pages for just £1.

You can purchase the quick reads edition from bookshops, libraries, supermarkets, or online. For more information about quick reads, you can visit www.quickreads.org.uk. Or the original version is available here.

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