Author Sally Watson ended up in Sonoma County even though she took a circuitous route to get here. She was born in Seattle and educated there, she was a mediocre student who loved words and stories but was not even mildly interested in math. When dreams of being a ballerina faded and with no interest in looking for a husband or going to college right away, she joined the navy. When her tour of duty ended she did go to college and moved to San Francisco and then Los Angeles. At this point she had three books that had been published and she used her royalties to move to England where she stayed for many years. She established many friendships, wrote some more and dabbled in Judo but inevitably she returned to the U.S. having produced twelve books in all.
I chose to read “Tailwavers” because I was intrigued by the title. The author, right away, explains its significance. When in ancient times Egyptian cats first arrived in Greece carrying their dorsal appendages aloft they were called ailuros or “tailwavers.” The narrative woven around this conceit is an epistolary memoir that consists mostly of letters being sent between two women over forty years. Sally lives in America and Jenny lives in England and then in Germany. ‘Lest one comes to the conclusion that the story consists of cloying conversations between two crazy cat ladies, remember both participants were published authors. Jenny Maxwell, the other correspondent has written nine books and Sally Watson herself was a member of Mensa. World situations are discussed, for example, the National Health system in England versus our own capitalized medicine “…..England is appalled at the very notion of hospitals for profit: they’re expected to lose money……So instead of competing: they cooperate”. And this topic seemed particularly appropriate now as a comparison between English and American politics. “We (Americans) vote for the person and swear allegiance to the symbol: you, vice-versa.” The European writer questions our custom of “Lobbying,” “What is the difference between that and common bribery?” Of course, there is a great deal of cat lore. During the middle ages, cats were associated with witches. So all the cats were killed. But the cats had eaten the mice that carried the fleas that spread the Bubonic Plague that wiped out approximately 60% of the population.
Each lady has a pack of cats and yes, these felines are anthropomorphized. The author established a cat adoption agency and in little over three years found homes for nearly eight hundred cats and she rescued and neutered a lot more. She supported several feral colonies and was instrumental in establishing a thrift store as a fundraiser. These two letter writing women were intelligent and wonderful, sparkling architects of prose. Were they crazy cat ladies? Well, maybe.
Diane McCurdy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Diane was born in Santa Rosa, has a BA from SF State and an MA from SSU in English Literature and several teaching credentials, two grown children and three cats. Diane has a lifelong interest in film, thus her DVD reviews on a broad spectrum of films. Clearly, this interest in creative imagination extends to the printed page and book reviews for those who love to read.