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on 11 December 2000
I first heard about this book months before it was published - there was an article in The Guardian about how a young woman had taken her cat to travel around America after the death of her mother. Being a person who loves cats in all their contradictions, the idea fascinated me - so when I saw this book was out I had to read it. And I'm delighted to say that I was not disappointed. I found 'I and Claudius' startlingly original, painfully honest and at times, hilariously funny. Deeply introspective and sometimes almost embarrassingly honest, Clare describes her feelings about her life, her cat and her mother's death in a way in which you can't help but empathise. She is in a sense an anti-hero; there are times in the book where you don't particularly like her - when she appears vain and self-obsessed. However, as the pages unfolded I became quite fond of her, despite her flaws. She is human after all, like any of us - and the fact that she could reveal so much of herself and leave herself open to analysis and judgement by the reader, made me feel rather protective of her. Certainly her love for her cat is huge and the author uses her keen observational skills to combine tragedy and comedy with panache. Perhaps it was something to do with the fact that I was dying of flu at the time that I read the last half of the book, but I found myself in floods of tears at the imminent demise of her beloved feline companion. 'I and Claudius' is by turns spiritual and sordid, crushingly sad and ridiculously silly. If you this is just another travelogue, you've missed the point.
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on 6 April 2003
I loved this book, and read it whilst waiting for my own Tonkinese kitten to be old enough to leave his mother and come and live with us. My Mum had read and recommended it (she has six cats) and I didn't fancy it much, but I was hooked after a couple of chapters. I loved the way that Clare could "hear" Claudius talk and it was really good the way his personality became an integral part of the book along with Clare's.
I found Clare to be very easy to relate to in that she was very down to earth and a bit ditzy (a bit like me!!)
This book is an enjoyable read for all, but will be especially appreciated by cat lovers (particularly Burmese, Siamese or Tonkinese).
My kitten has been home two weeks now - and what did I call him? Why, Claudius of course!!
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on 25 September 2002
This is a very different read, quite memorable as it's not like anything I've read before as you realise it's actually a true story of Clare travelling the states with her old cat but written more as a novel. It's enjoyable, but she does irritate at times, being very spoilt, and not living in the real world. She is eccentric but not so much in a good way. That said, I did enjoy reading this book and would recommend it as something a bit different, with a warning that it could annoy.
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At age 28, journalist Clare de Vries of England decides her life needs shaking up, so she embarks on an auto tour of the United States with her pet Burmese cat of 19 years, "Claude". I & CLAUDIUS is their on-the-road story as they start out in Connecticut, then head south through New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana, then west through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and southern Nevada to the Pacific at Los Angeles, then finally north to the San Francisco Bay area. As Clare describes it early on, her route is a smiley face on a map of America.
Clare can be endearingly ditzy. At one point, she all but admits not knowing that cars need regular infusions of motor oil to run. She drives west ignorant of the difference between Las Vegas, NV and Las Vegas, NM until she arrives at the latter and can't find the bright lights and casinos. She carries on imaginary conversations with Claudius, the back-and-forth repartee of which is recorded in the book as if she was talking to another human. She can also be infuriating. An understated need of her journey is to find Love, or at least Lust. Yet her taste in men is so abysmal that she consistently attaches herself to Complete Losers. She blames it on a fear of commitment. Only Claude has her heart.
Claudius, on the other hand, is the coolest feline on the planet. Perhaps it's mellowness due to his advanced age (133 in human, biological clock years). I can't even imagine my own cat, Trouble, sitting quietly on my lap for the entire duration of a western rodeo. Or on my lap in a 4-seater, light plane flying over the Grand Canyon abyss. Claudius manages every experience with aplomb, though his serene composure did crack a bit when faced with a bear noshing from his food dish.
I & CLAUDIUS is a touching and amusing travel essay, though the smiley face on Clare's map is a bit forced at times due to her angst over what she expects to be her pet's sooner-than-later demise. (He is, after all, 19 cat-years old.) Occasional crises, real or imagined, in Claude's health are interspersed with droll car, motel ("No Pets Allowed") and man problems. Indeed, it's a minor miracle that Clare found time to enjoy any of America's attractions. (Claudius apparently did. While on the road, he became addicted to KFC - regular, not spicy.) One of the funniest incidents is that of the Tarantula-Under-the-Car-Seat. (I was tempted to peer under the seat of my own sedan after that anecdote!) And the montage of color photos on the inside of both the front and back covers of the paperback edition is a very nice touch.
I unreservedly recommend this book to any cat owner whose pet is also a true pal.
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on 12 December 2000
One of the worst travel-related pieces I've read. Driving alone, de Vries has no-one to play off against so in order to provide some dialogue, she makes constant references to conversations with her cat throughout the book. This is funny the first time but should be left as a one-off joke. De Vries flogs it until it's vaguely annoying to read.
In addition to this, I would assume large tracts are fictitious: the very odd-coincidencies, the almost-slapstick moment where she knocks an important boss into a pool, the 'stay with people after knowing them 10 minutes' etc. I dont believe it happened that way, Clare!
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on 13 November 2000
I was very much looking forward to reading this book, being a cat-loving, travel-loving sort of girl myself, but I was in for a big disappointment. The writer spends too much time describing her clothes,her cellulite and her angst, and not nearly enough on the stuff that would have made this an interesting read. She reveals herself to be a bit thick, especially when it comes to feline nutrition, (she feeds her cat Claudius things like chocolate, cheese and KFC, all well-documented as being bad for cats)and fails to make what appears to be an interesting premise (girl goes off alone across the States in search of, well, in search of something, after death of mother) into anything other than a litany of how many margaritas she has at each stop. By the end of the book I felt that she would have been better served by staying in London and spending all her money on booze and Gucci heels. I hope she felt better for writing this, but I certainly felt worse after reading it.
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on 4 April 2014
I bought this thinking it would be a nice little story, unfortunately it was anything but. Why would someone want to drag their poor old cat around the country until it's kidneys failed, probably brought on by stress.
A very selfish and thoughtless take on caring for your pet. The cat had no choice, and it would have been kinder to leave him at home to enjoy what was left of his old age in peace and comfort instead of lugging him about from place to place and causing stress.
I read this book some time ago and it still haunts me. It was a living creature, not an accessory. No wonder the poor thing died.
Best place for this book is in the garbage.
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on 11 May 2000
It's unbelievable that a book as totally vacuous and without redemption should manage to get published... Buying a brand new Buick and driving around from motel to motel measuring the interest of Americans by how good looking they are sums up the book. I felt sorry for the cat who provided the only slightly interesting aspect of the book. My sister bought me the book because she knows I like travelogues and it makes me angry she spent the money on this shallow reflection of someone's uninspired attempt at 'travel'. Arrrrrgh
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on 20 October 2000
ive read plenty of travel books in my time and this truly is one of the,if not the greatest one ive ever read.a classic that is both funny and sad,so much so that i felt emotionaly drained by the end of it!completely fantastic,i couldnt recomend it enough.
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on 24 April 2001
Anyone with first-class intelligence, real sensitivity and yet no fear of embarrassing themselves is half-way towards writing something remarkable. Clare de Vries more than meets her potential. This book is unique - and it's all about personality. Clare's. You may not always like it, but you sure as hell sit up when she walks into the room. If you are on this page and wondering whether or not to buy this book, stop pussyfooting around and get it. Take a punt. It's only on a book. De Vries did it with her life.
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