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Matthew Flinders' Cat

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  3,151 ratings  ·  189 reviews
The story of a drunk, a boy and a cat 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 the usual trouble. The two form an unlikely bond. Through telling Ryan the sto ...more
Kindle Edition, 500 pages
Published August 11th 2011 (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  3,151 ratings  ·  189 reviews

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Despite the title, this is primarily the story of Billy O’Shannessy - once a prominent lawyer, now an alcoholic derelict sleeping rough - and Ryan, an 11 year old boy who Billy recognises as having a bright mind and showing great potential, but who is cared for by a grandmother in the last stages of cancer and a mother who is an “exotic dancer” and a heroin addict.

Through listening to this book, I found out more than I ever needed to know about alcoholism, homelessness, drug addiction and paedop
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
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
Karen ⊰✿
This was my first Courtenay book and I was totally engaged at the start and loved the descriptions of Sydney and how he clearly knew the city well. I also really empathised with Billy, our main character who is a homeless alcoholic ex-barrister, and I thought the character writing was great.
There were a couple of issues with the book though. Firstly, the length. It was quite repetitive by about 2/3 through and I thought could have used a much more thorough edit. Another part that bothered me was
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
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. Jam
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-western
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.
Paula Vince
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading several British and American books this year, I felt a craving for something completely Australian, which is just what this is. I picked it up at a second hand shop.

Billy O'Shannessy is a drunken ex-barrister who has become a street bum. He still keeps an eye on the world around him and writes letters to the Sydney Morning Herald, because he believes 'alcoholism and writing have a long history together.' He wants to write convincing essays about Australian history and ecology, but
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'
Kathleen Dixon
Jun 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathleen by: Reading Seals
Shelves: australia
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
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia
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
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this book in over the weekend.

Started out pretty slow to build a foundation for character development.

Ultimately the book picked up past to a profound ending which I will remember for years to come.

I read a lot of books, many I forget the plots after a few years. Even forget titles of books... What I am saying is this is one book I will remember til my old age.

This book really touched my heart! Much more so than a Nicholas Sparks novel or Jo Jo Moyes book like "Me Before You" .

Bryce Cou
Jenny Delandro
Apr 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dianna Shimizu
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Bryce Courtenay's books. He's an awesome story teller and sucks you right into the story. This one, about the plight of the homeless, becomes more and more relevant.
A derelict former barrister, living on the streets in New South Wales, enjoys the company of a statue of Matthew Flinders’ cat—a famous feline that sailed with its owner around Australia in days of danger, pirate and storm. But the present (or recent past) day might be filled with danger too, especially for a young boy whose mother’s lifestyle leaves him fending for himself. And the runaway drunkard just might need to save himself before he can help the runaway child.

Bryce Courtenay’s novel blen
Marietjie Steyn
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Humans, like all creatures, put themselves first. The only difference was that, unlike other species, they had the power to alter the balance of nature, and it was this that made them so dangerous. History was all about greed. Enough is never quite enough.
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 mot
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
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
personally, I like a book that has a good, summed up ending. where there are no questions unanswered. this was not one of them. I liked the storyline and it actually gave a good insight to the lives of addicts but I think there was so much detail throughout the book, so many tangents and in the end, the epilogue felt rushed and left more questions than answers.
what happened to Billy's (ex)wife and daughter? does he simply never see them again even though he reforms?
just for one. maybe is was e
Dec 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Debbie Lamb
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Karen Baldwin-porter
This book should have more than 5 stars. I loved The Power of One but this is even better. It's a difficult read in so much as it touches on the darkest places addictions can lead. It deals with guilt and people caught in self loathing and the scum in society who should feel guilt and self loathing but don't appear to have the conscience necessary to go there. It is well balanced with the resilience and good that still exists in humanity. Great Read.
Linda Tuplin
I had mixed feelings about this book. The story line was good but could have used some added depth. I feel like I never really got to know the characters, just superficially. The plot was kind of predictable, and at times found it feeling a bit like a textbook on addictions. I liked the story of the cat, but the two lines through the book felt awkward. Overall it was an ok read, and got much better near the end. I did find the cultural language difficult to comprehend at times as well.
Jul 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-re-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
Kiki Hopcraft
Read 60 pages and put this down. Was really disappointed by the over use of stereotype. I'm Australian- but was repelled against the language of 'Aussie ocker'. I have read Bryce Courtney before (jessica and I remember loving it), I don't recall the language being so bad in that one. Perhaps I have gotten soft over time. Either way, I'm happy to skip this book and Bryce Courtney.
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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

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