Not the theological fantasy of C.S. Lewis (1945), but Valerie Martin’s book of 2003. Echoing the 1942 Lewton movie, Cat People, her book captures the moodiness, the impending doom and horror very well.
Three women’s lives are strangely linked by big cats.Elizabeth is a beautiful Creole in antebellum New Orleans who mistakenly marries a wealthy landowner Hermann Schlaeger. Sometime later, Hermann is found dead, with his throat ripped out, and there is blood on Elizabeth’s mouth and fingers. She is hanged as a mad ‘catwoman.’
In the present, Paul is researching this strange historical event. He is married to Ellen, a veterinarian at the New Orleans Zoo. She is trying to contain an infectious disease threatening the brains of the zoo’s animals, including Magda, the black leopard. The divorce of the title relates to the breakup between the human species and the rest of nature, but in parallel Ellen’s marriage to Paul is on the rocks and they are facing the prospect of divorce.The third woman is Camille, a troubled young keeper at the zoo, who finds herself falling into awful realistic fantasies where she is metamorphosing into a big cat.
A richly observed, often moving, sometimes disturbing, examination of humanity stretched taut until some individuals must snap. And of course an indictment of man’s destruction of nature and beauty.Quite a powerful work.