Orlando, the Marmalade Cat: A Camping Holiday – Kathleen Hale

POINTS: 1 out of 10.

Bechdel:  0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 1 point
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

I really wanted to like this book – it is so damned pretty to look at! The version we got out of the library was a massive hardcover, the cover is charming, the illustrations are beautiful, but oh my god, the story is facepalm-worthy.

In short, Orlando takes his (oh so 30s) family on a camping holiday. I’ve mentioned in the past that I prefer animal stories where the animals act like animals, so this one is already on the back foot with me, with its patriarchally smug protagonist who gives instructions to his ‘wife’, Grace, as if she is one of the kittens. The gender roles are so entrenched it almost hurts, and Orlando is frankly annoying as hell. But worse than that for me is the fact that the cats alternate between being cat-like (fishing with their claws and talking about eating caterpillars “more out of friendliness than hunger”) and being entirely human in the most pompously 1930s British middle class way imaginable.

Christopher did seem to enjoy it though – I will give it that. It is quite long, but he sat still and listened to the whole thing, and gave it a thumbs up at the end. The illustrations are pretty neat, but that’s about the best thing i can say about it.

I suppose if you’re into old-school British nostalgia, you may enjoy the descriptions of camping in the 30s, complete with painting lessons by the river and sing alongs at night, but I found it fairly saccharine.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Orlando? Do you enjoy animal books where the animals act like humans?




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