Suki by Suniti Namjoshi
“Suki” is a warm and highly relatable tale that is well-paced and thoughtful. There are also some quaint pictures woven in amongst the symbolic writing and metaphors. Ultimately, this helps create a contemporary and intelligent story.
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo
Suniti Namjoshi is a distinctive voice in lesbian, feminist literature, having written over 30 titles including “The Fabulous Feminist” and “Feminist Fables”. But her latest book, “Suki”, looks at a different sort of relationship. It is a lightly fictionalised memoir that explores the deep and complex bond between an Indian woman and her cat as they live together in the English countryside.
Suki is a chatty, lilac Burmese whose name means “happy” in Sanskrit. She is often temperamental and obstinate but despite having quarrels with her owner, S is still one bright and intelligent feline. S in this case is Namjoshi who writes about her job and bumptious cat and the pair end up having lots of different conversations.
By giving Suki the qualities of a human woman, Namjoshi straddles the lines between human realism (Suki’s character is sketched so well, she could be saying all of these things) and a fantasy fable. The pair have some very interesting debates about life, love, death, meditation, philosophy and other topics, including other animals. The former content and heavier subject matter means at times this book shares qualities with “Tuesdays with Morrie”.
This biography is structured in two parts, the first is “Memoir”, which focuses exclusively on Suki’s life (all 4083 days of it) and the aftermath of her death. The second part, “The Vipassana Trek” is about how Namjoshi deals with the loss, through a meditative journey that is not unlike the lead in “Eat, Pray, Love”. In the latter part, Namjoshi introduces strange new characters, including an entire menagerie of animals. But this material isn’t as strong as the first part, with the real gold being the exchanges between her and Suki.
“Suki” is a warm and highly relatable tale that is well-paced and thoughtful. There are also some quaint pictures woven in amongst the symbolic writing and metaphors. Ultimately, this helps create a contemporary and intelligent story that will appeal equally to your heart and your head.