I’ve got a gently odd little offering for today’s climb up Mount TBR. It’s adult fiction (memoir?) The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide and translated by Eric Selland. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
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.
Time on the TBR Shelf:
Probably about a year? I can’t say exactly as I didn’t buy this one myself.
Received as a birthday gift
Reason I haven’t read it yet:
It’s a very slim tome, so of course I put it off under the logic that as it’s so thin I could pick it up and knock it over anytime. Also, the sensible, grown up, adultness of the subject matter had me a tiny bit intimidated, even though I asked someone to buy this for me because I wanted to read it.
- It’s rare to find such a gentle story in which the content is so limited, yet still engaging: this is literally a man reflecting on his life with his wife and the next-door neighbour’s cat. I don’t think there’s any massive, deep analogy that I’m missing. It’s a pretty straightforward reflection on life, relationships and loss. And the habits of cats.
- The writing is … sublime seems too committed a word, but maybe majestic could be a good way to describe it. Majestic without being arrogant. Rapturous but at the same time, quotidian. There’s an elevation to the writing which makes the ordinary events being described feel like something important.
- The book is slim and can be read quite quickly. Alternatively, the content works well for just taking things a chapter at a time due to the lack of exciting action.
- If you have a particularly deep love for felines, you will probably delight in the detailed descriptions of the cat’s cute idiosyncracies.
- There is a section at the back with some notes that give context to some of the events that might be missed or misinterpreted by non-Japanese readers. I found this quite helpful in re-examining a particular event toward the end.
Less Impressive Bits:
- The print in this edition is teeny-weeny.
- Without spoiling the events of the book for you, by the end of the book, the man and his wife seemed a little too attached to the cat to the point that it was interfering with their ability to move on. Literally move on, since they move house.
On reflection, was this worth buying?
Considering it wasn’t my money that paid for it, yes. Particularly since it isn’t at all my usual type of read, and therefore it is unlikely that I would ever have bought it for myself.
Where to now for this tome?
I will probably pass it on to someone who will enjoy it. Or possibly sell it at a Suitcase Rummage.
This is another chink off the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted by My Reader’s Block.
Until next time,