Summary: After landing in the pound after being abandoned by yet another family, Ewan is convinced he’s too old to be adopted out again. For a pet like him, the only fate left is to be put down. But when Sir Jiat—of the City Guard, no less—visits the pound, he goes straight to Ewan. Jiat prefers the more mature pets and treats Ewan better than he’s ever been treated by any previous owner. Ewan sleeps at the foot of his master’s bed, not on the floor or outside; he is given toys and other pets to play with and plenty of room to run; and he’s fed on a schedule and eats very well. But Ewan’s love for his master begins to change, to become something else, something more.
Plenty of pets have been killed over the years for acting on the feelings that Sir Jiat inspires, so he dares not express the desire building inside him. And yet, Ewan can’t help but notice that Sir Jiat has begun to act differently as well, more doting, treating Ewan almost as an equal. So even though the thing he wants more than anything is also their society’s greatest taboo, Ewan resolves that if he must die, he will die having felt, just once, the warmth of Sir Jiat’s soft fur pressed against his bare naked skin.
If you read this literally, than there’s bestiality. Sexual relations between a feline Master and his human pet are thorough and describe relevant physiological differences in genitalia. And while I read diverse materials, I took it as a symbolic difference much akin to old racial arguments wrought from colonialism.
The plot and the argument for an enslaved species’ rights is in line with mainstream Western beliefs, the twist is the salacious difference in anatomy during erotic scenes and the fact they were not pushed under the covers or behind closed doors. So, would this upset a person who believed it condoned sexual congress between humans and cats and dogs–yes, but that interpretation is the most simplified one available.
The story is not complicated, but sweet in it’s rendering. Ewan, a human mutt has been passed from hands to hands to shelter to hands. An older pet, and less desirable he is lucky when a new owner comes to claim him–Jiat. What happens after is both the intrigue and the romance. So, one analysis of the book is as apologist post-colonial guilt, the other an animal rights argument. By skewing the power balance, Armstrong is pushing the reader to minority/unrepresented viewpoint. Not privy to the author’s personal background (and not that interested), I found the latter more compelling by using previous racial argument points.
I like the premise of the story, but I’d have preferred a more intellectually challenging execution–that’s me. I agree that it is a discussion we should be having and thus, its existence makes it valuable.
Overall, a thoughtful argument made provocatively.
I was so many things, some I didn’t even know yet, but the one that followed me into the darkness of sleep was the one I wanted to be most of all: special.