First published as Neko no Kyaku in Japanese in Japan by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in 2014. English language translation by Eric Selland published by New Directions in 2014.
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How I got this book:
Bought at a Torquay charity shop
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. They work at home as freelance writers. They no longer have very much to say to one another. One day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. She is a beautiful creature. She leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. New, small joys accompany the cat; the days have more light and colour. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife; they go walking together, talk and share stories of the cat and its little ways, play in the nearby Garden. But then something happens that will change everything again.
The Guest Cat is an exceptionally moving and beautiful novel about the nature of life and the way it feels to live it. Written by Japanese poet and novelist Takashi Hiraide, the book won Japan's Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, and was a bestseller in France and America.
Reading this understated and poetic novella almost felt like a meditation. I was surprised that a book in which so little actually happens could be so compelling, but The Guest Cat is one that, once I started I didn't want to put the book down until its final page. Hiraide beautifully describes the immediate area of Tokyo surrounding the narrator's rented house and I got a strong sense of the couple's loneliness prior to Chibi's arrival. They seem alienated from each other and isolated from their neighbours until the cat adopts them, giving especially the wife a new sense of purpose.
I am not sure how much this book would appeal to non-cat lovers and have even seen reviews complaining that the cat does not have enough of a starring role. The Guest Cat isn't really about the cat per se. For me it was more a thoughtful prose-poem about friendship and love, about finding a place that feels like home, and about living quietly with the passing of the seasons and finding joy in small events.
Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Takashi Hiraide / Contemporary fiction / Books from Japan