Matthew Flinders' Cat
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Matthew Flinders' Cat

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,641 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Billy O'Shannessy, once a prominent barrister, is now on the street where he sleeps on a bench outside the State Library. Above him on the window sill rests a bronze statue of Matthew Flinders' cat, Trim. Ryan is a ten-year-old, a near street kid heading for all the usual trouble. The two meet and form an unlikely friendship. Appealing to the boy's imagination by telling h...more
Hardcover, 611 pages
Published December 31st 2002 by Viking (first published 2002)
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384th out of 440 books — 1,053 voters
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Community Reviews

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As a Salvo in a former life working in Sydney, this book brought back so many memories. Courtney's description of the salvation Army's William Booth Institute was accurate and it took me back there personally, of the Majors who worked there... I'm sure I knew who some of the characters were really based on. I actually listened to the audiobook version of this book with my 16yr old daughter on a long road trip and I felt it was an extremely accurate portrayal of alcoholism, it's hold over people,...more
This was a book about an alcoholic and a homeless one at that. The first part described what life was like for a derelict like Billy O'Shannessy. At first, I was not really impressed by his character and I wondered why government and charity organizations spent dole money on these parasitic members of society.

The second part onward was the gem of the book. The author illustrated why alcohol and drugs addiction are impossible to cure with sheer will power and why they ended up addicted to death....more
Jul 11, 2013 Velvetink marked it as to-read
tuebl epub version 12/7/13

By co-incidence I saw Flinders' cat Trim the other day.......

he's on the roof of the State Library of New South Wales and is easy to miss if you don't know he's there. (In reality he circumnavigated the world with Flinders and met his untimely death marooned on the island of Mauritius.)

just near Flinders' statue.......

Bryce's inspiration is not far fetched as that particular spot by the Flinders' statue had two homeless people huddled underneath, and St. James stat...more
Glenn T. Ryan
To quote an expression from the book, “I got gypped.”
You see, I’ve never read a Bryce Courtenay book before, not even The Power Of One. I’ve always been keen to see what all the fuss was about, so I finally decided on reading Matthew Flinders’ Cat. For me, the idea of reading about the circumnavigation of Australia through the eye of a cat sounded original and potentially entertaining. However, to my dismay I found that this novel is not really about Matthew Flinders’ Cat. In fact, Trim the fel...more
Kathleen Dixon
Aug 22, 2014 Kathleen Dixon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kathleen by: Reading Seals
This is the first Bryce Courtenay I’ve read and I couldn’t put it down. I’ve heard varied opinions on his novels so I’m obviously going to have to try some more, but going on this I’m eager to do that.

The narrator of this story is Billy O’Shannessy (without the ‘u’) who is a derelict sleeping in the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. Billy wakes one morning, in his usual hungover state, and is ‘visited’ by a 10-year-old boy who asks about the statue of the cat. Billy tries to brush the boy off, but hi...more
This is a book in two parts (and two stories throughout both parts). The first half of the book is yarn telling in excellent form, and it's unlikely you'll be able to put it down. The second half, many will find the opposite as it shipwrecks on the sandbanks of 'the author seems to have lost interest too'. There's a rally of rescue which promises to haul the second half out of the mire and back onto the plot(s), but then publishing deadlines appear to step in and massacre the entire cast, leavin...more
This is not Bryce Courtenay's best book. Mostly it needed some serious editing, and it often seemed repetitious and rambling. The plot is ok but not great.
This book is about a man that was once a prominent Sydney barrister but is now a drunk, who befriends a young ten year old boy with family problems and the story of a cat.
I enjoyed it, but not as much as some of Courtney's other books. I am still struggling with the whole cat thing. It was meant to be the focus of the book. The drunk looked up to this cat, but I still couldn't really get it to relate back to his story. Bits and pieces I could, but I just didn't feel that I got it properly.
My oth...more
Elizabeth Krall
A friend loaned this book to me, and because of her I struggled through it. My lack of enthusiasm for the book is due to my total lack of interest/empathy/connection with the two main characters, who are a homeless drunken ex-barrister (Billy) and a streetwise boy (Ryan). I simply didn't care how their story ended. Far more offputting, however, is that the eponymous cat thinks. And talks. And steers a ship. On a positive note, the descriptions of Sydney are spot-on, and I won't be able to pass t...more
Kathleen Hagen
Matthew Flinder’s Cat, by Bryce Courtenay, Narrated by Humphrey Bower, Produced by Bolinda Audio, Downloaded from

As the publisher’s note begins: “This book is the story of a drunk, a boy and a cat.” Of course it’s much more than that. Billy was a well-known lawyer who went on the skids because of alcohol and finally was living on the street. Ryan is a young very bright child who was beautiful to look at and who had a wonderful singing voice. He was very street savvy because his moth...more
There sure are a lot of folks who don't like Bryce Courtenay's books, and this one sure had mixed reviews. I like a good story, and so I am a fan of Bryce Courtenay. I've never been to Australia, but one day I hope that I will make it there. First, the narrator-- Humphrey Bower is one of my very favorite audible book narrators. He makes listening to Mr. Courtenay's books totally enjoyable...FIVE stars!
The story. Wow, this is a dark one, for sure.
This is about alcoholism and drug addcition. It'...more
Debbie Lamb
My first experience of a Bryce Courtenay novel and based on this, I will be delving into his catalogue again very soon. Really enjoyed this book and it was a real eye opener regarding addiction and the impact it has on all members of a family. It did seem a little rushed at the end but I was always interested in how each character faired throughout the novel. Has certainly changed my perception on homelessness.
An exploration of alcoholism and recovery, guilt and redemption, with an upclose look at how AA might work. Matthew Flinder's cat is the "higher power" ... This is my first Bryce Courtenay book (passed to me by a bibliophile friend) ... I'm not sure I'd have started reading another right off (The Persimmon Tree), but she passed it on to me as well and I just can't leave a free book unread.
Jodie Dickey
I like his style of writing and I wanted to know what happened with the characters but found the passages about the cat quite tedious and the ending a bit rushed and unbelievable.
Story of an alcoholic derelict who used to be a lawyer who meets a young boy on the street who is going through difficulties with his mother and nan. They bond over stories about a ship's cat.
What did I think? well, in short BRILLIANT!!! yes, Brilliant. I feel in love with this book right from the start. There is so much humanity in this book, its just one of those books that take you in from the start. I don't wont to give to much away, but I can say PLEASE read this book, you wont be dissapointed. It's a must read book.
Jenny Delandro
a contemporary story about a man overwelmed by circumstances who finds the strength within to help someone else. I never knew there was a statue of 'Trim' outside the Mitchell Library in Sydney and was strangely complelled to go a find it. I view Homeless people in Sydney in a different light.
Realistic portrayal of alcoholism and recovery--not too many artistic licenses taken. The stories about the cat provide a break from the grimness of the subject matter. First book I've read by this author. I listened to the audio version of the book, which I enjoyed.
Sue Webber
Loved this book, Bryce Courtney is such a good story teller, but he certainly doesn't pack any punches and the story is quite brutal and graphic. But then life isn't a bed of roses for many people, especially for the characters in the book who are probably a fairly accurate portrayal of people living that way every day.
The end came far too quick for me, it was like he suddenly ran out of pages and the conclusion seemed rushed. After all the build up throughout it was left feeling a little flat,...more
Heather Browning
Well this certainly taught me about judging a book by its cover - I've had it sitting on my shelf for years and never picked it up because I thought it would be historical fiction. Instead, when I finally read it, I find a story abut homelessness, addiction, paedophilia, rehabilitation and friendship. Courtenay has a simple and powerful writing style, and creates subtle and believable characters. Although I found the 'secondary' story of Matthew Flinders' cat not particularly interesting, I love...more
The best book I've read in years. An astonishing insight into repentance, guilt, homelessness, intelligence, alcoholism, abuse and rising above fear.
This is the only book I've read by Bryce Courtenay so far and he does indeed seem unerringly positive. And boy does he nail the contrary atmosphere of Sydney!

Although the events which shake the main character seem slightly contrived, if I had not read the autobiography of a British newscaster who's life did indeed parallel this character's, to a surprising degree, I might have called the whole show unbelievable.

Quite the opposite is true. While not spectacular or strongly compelling, emotionall...more
Annie Oosterwyk
A redemption tale of an alcoholic and a young boy whose mother is an addict.

Another great story by Bryce Courtenay.
Jenny Foley
I loved this book, there were so many aspects of it that resonated with me. Can't stop thinking about it. It makes me cry when I talk about it.
Courtney writes a good yarn. This one covered topics new to me in fiction from homelessness to pedophilia. Worth a read.
Can I ever say enough about Bryce Courtenay? this time he delves into the nature of addiction. He writes about the evils of humanity so easily and explores what is good and evil about us all. While this may not be his most gripping book (sorry boxing fans-3/4 through it and only one small ref to an old fighter) but the story line of a laywer turned homeless alcohlic who attempts rehab to save one little boy is still so real and believable. Recommended for Fans of his literture- I don't know if t...more
I really enjoyed this story. I listened to it on CD in my car. It took about 5 weeks to finish, so it would have been a long read. The author writes beautifully and wove a masterful story. I think that's why I enjoyed it so much - listening to it read aloud really enhanced the experience. I learned a lot about early Australian history and what an alcoholic goes through mentally, emotionally and physically during the illness and on the road to recovery. I'm glad I have that heightened awareness.
Definitely not Bryce Courtenay's best book, but I still enjoyed it.
Steve Day
I enjoyed this book, it was easy to read and had a nice flow, the characters were believable enough ( possibly the lead had less problems with denying his habit that I would have thought....and the cat is quite the communicator). Not sure how accurate the historical story is, but not game to question BC. The cat proves to be a good vehicle for the story which for me is about being honest with yourself. Nice book even though some pretty bad stuff happens to a lot of people.
This is my first experience with Bryce Courtenay, I really enjoyed it, it was a real eye-opener about the life of the homeless, alcoholics, pedophilia and the justice system. As a sailing person, I have an interest in Mathew Flinders and as an animal lover wanted to know more about Trim his cat, so I found this to be a well rounded story all up.
I look forward to read more from Bryce Courtenay in the future.
Judith Yeabsley
Haven't read a Bryce C for about 15 years and had forgotten what a great, pacy yarn they provide. This one was as usual exciting, compelling and fast paced. It was also very close to home as it focused on a Barrister in self-imposed exile and living on the streets due to his alcoholism. His path to redemption was full of laughs and cries for me. Really enjoyed the book except for the "housewifes ending".
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I was born illegitimately in 1933 in South Africa and spent my early childhood years in a small town deep in the heart of the Lebombo mountains.

It was a somewhat isolated community and I grew up among farm folk and the African people. At the age of five I was sent to a boarding school which might be better described as a combination orphanage and reform school, where I learned to box - though less...more
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