Can a book that is pretty darn charming possibly get even more so as the story progresses? Apparently so if you are Beverley Nichols, the book is Merry Hall, and you are writing about cats! I have been earmarking pages as I go thinking I really need to share this. And this. Oh, and this would be good, too. But then we come to the end of a chapter (and I typically have been reading a chapter a day--this being my treadmill book) that ends:
"I sat down and meditated on the general impossibility of women."
"Into the room, with great dignity, stalked 'One' and 'Four'. They had mud on their paws, and the naturally decided to sit on my lap. They smelt of moss and loam, and they both set up a slow, tranquil purr."
"'Cats,' I thought, 'are best'."
In the next chapter we will learn why."
So, now comes the hard part. Aside from having to wait until the next day to read said chapter, the whole thing is so charming, how do I pick just one excerpt? He has a knack for ending one chapter in just such a way that you really want to keep reading and not tuck in your bookmark for the next sitting. Best to start at the beginning perhaps?
"This book--as you may by now have gathered --is not really a book at all; it is only a long walk round a garden, in winter and summer, in rain and in sunshine, and if it bores you to walk round gardens you will long ago have chucked it aside. So neither of us need worry."
"But if you would like to go on walking, then this is the moment when we must stop and turn our heads. For we are being followed."
Let me mention now that both One and Four have been making little appearances in Nichols's narrative. Curious names, don't you think? I was a little bewildered at first but the names are growing on me now. The story goes--Nichols wanted over his lifetime to own a hundred cats and as names can be tricky to bestow on our little furry friends he decided to number them. So, yes, he began with One. Unfortunately Two and Three became ill and passed away, but Four seems a pretty sturdy fellow.
I had a chuckle at his quip to friends when they said your cats are following us, just like dogs!
"Which is enraging. It is not at all extraordinary that a cat should follow you; it merely means you are worth following."
I agree. Cats are smart and never do something without good reason (or no reason at all maybe but that makes complete sense when we are talking about cats).
Much like the Susan Hill book, this is chock full of wonderfully bon mots! I could post on it endlessly, but I think it best really to just press the book into your hands and you can enjoy it as much as I am.