Magnificat: an animal fantasy
Not a book that I would have normally picked up, but as it turned up I am very glad that I have read every page. This is the story of a town like Mullimbimby in northern New South Wales and the of the people who live there, with all their eccentricities, their foibles, their loves and hates. The author Danielle de Valera has very cleverly constructed an animal kingdom, where cats are the ordinary residents, the dogs pull their carts, and a variety of other animals ranging from lizards to snakes to wombats all inhabit this town. Importantly, she raises a whole colony of outlaws living in the bush who are rabbits.
The book is a combination of Animal Farm, Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland in some ways, but also I suspect reflects some of her life and experiences. The author starts the story quite slowly, and I first thought that I might get bored, but gradually I got into the story and felt part of the lives of these rather exceptional Burmese cats – Claude, Mao and their family. They reflect the lives and difficulties faced by so many poor families living in relatively isolated towns in country Australia. In a friendly and non-threatening way, the author introduces us to many of the other characters of the town and surrounding countryside. The book simply grows on you. It has all the elements of a good yarn, but beneath that I know that Danny, the author, has a far deeper purpose. She wants us all to feel and experience what live can be like in that situation. The cat family falls into terrible poverty and looks unlikely to survive, but Danny creates a wonderful ending to the book with everyone living happily ever after, but not until the cat heroes have had some terrifying experiences. I loved this book and am so glad that Danny gave me a copy in exchange for a copy of my book, Two Squatters. Danny and I went to university together way back, and have only recently just caught up. Swapping books has been a great way to renew friendships. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has lived in a small country town anywhere in the world. Danny has been very brave to create her story around animals, but it works. It makes me want to visit “Tuckaburra” (Mullumbimby) just to see if the residents are really like those she describes. I expect they are. Finally, I should mention that Danny writes with a subtle sense of humour. She obviously loves her animals very much. Well done, Danny, and I hope we see more from you in the coming years.
Danielle de Valera (2014) MagnifiCat: an animal fantasy. (Old Tiger Books: USA) paperback, 272 pages.
Late News: My book Two Squatters is being officially launched on Wednesday 15 October in Melbourne. A tad late but I do enjoy a party! The book will be introduced by eminent historian, Emeritus Professor Graeme Davison of Monash University. The event is part of the Bayside Literary Series organised by the Bayside City Council in Melbourne. For details, see my website: http://www.martinplayne.com.au