Bereft of the Burmese who accompanied her across the US in I & Claudius (1999), British freelancer de Vries travels to Myanmar in search of a replacement—and chronicles the results in this energetic but unevenly engaging memoir.
Claudius and the author had been together for 20 years; she felt more comfortable with him than with most of her boyfriends. So when the cat dies and her love life stalls, it seems a good time to leave London and head for Burma, now Myanmar, to look for the perfect feline. De Vries is determined not to support the brutal and corrupt military regime by staying in government-run hotels, but she finds this more difficult than expected. She also finds, while conducting her desultory search, that her guides and the other locals are eager to talk politics, though she is careful to be circumspect about such encounters. De Vries visits numerous Buddhist temples in Rangoon and the nation’s most sacred site at Shwedagon, where a towering gilded stupa is set with diamonds. Told she will find cats in Bagan, she sees only monkeys. Dispirited by encounters with annoying fellow tourists, depressed by a visit to the Jumping Cat monastery (they leap when whacked by a monk), and worn down by the political situation, she returns home. There she meets a man who also likes cats, but she’s still committed to her quest and heads to Thailand, which offers only a reprise of unsuccessful visits to catteries, feline lore, and sightseeing. Implausibly advised in dreams by Claudius, de Vries now understands that her desperate hunt for the perfect cat was doomed. She returns sans Burmese, but ready to learn more about the fellow she calls Cat Cam Man.
Irritatingly sprightly and trying way too hard to be witty, insightful, and original.