This is a lovely, well-written book by a determined, thoughtful woman (Celia), who gently wins the trust and love of a little mud-coloured cat.
Tilly is the ugliest cat in the Cat Protection League shelter, where she has resided for eighteen months without being adopted. She is supremely distrusting of humans and cowers away from them, ears flattened to her head and eyes wide with fear; Celia's husband, Ronnie (ever-ready with a bon mot) describes her as being the "colour of sewage".
Celia takes Tilly home with her, to foster her in a normal home environment, in an attempt to rehabilitate her. She initially justifies her actions to herself by considering it dispassionately as a scientific exercise to make Tilly into an acceptable cat for adoption.
As Tilly stubbornly refuses to engage with her, Celia wonders whether she has undertaken an impossible task as her husband's health deteriorates. But what follows is a wonderful story of patience and resilience in the face of (as any cat owner knows) a cat's determination to be what and how it is, doing what it wants to do. Throughout the book there are entertaining asides about other cats and cat owners' experiences which are used to illustrate the author's reasoning. There is also a heart-rending account at the beginning of the book about the author's childhood, which she discloses in an attempt to analyse and explain her character. I found one particular incident, in which Celia describes her farmer father's punishment of her pet cat, exceptionally harrowing.
In summary, this is a "must read" book for cat lovers and those interested in ameliorating cat behaviour; it is also ultimately up-lifting and an explanation of just how much animals can enrich and enliven our lives.