The Cat Who Saved Books | Sōsuke Natsukawa #JPNfiction

First things first, Grandpa’s gone.

Somehow I seem to have started 2022 with a run of books that have turned out to be only so-so. The Cat Who Saved Books was okay, but really it was little more than a simplistic YA story about why reading and books are so good. Yes, it’s heart warming and cute and all of that, but nothing really to sink one’s teeth into. And the cat in question is a pretty mean old ginger to boot!

Borges’ The Library of Babel was an obvious influence on Sōsuke Natsukawa, conscious or otherwise, but this one serendipitous reading connection was not enough to engage me.

The young man, Rintaro Natsuki, in the story is a hikikomori, someone who is an acute social recluse, or on the verge of becoming one. Hikikomori has become a social issue in Japan in the past decade or so as more and more young adults stay secluded in their bedrooms (in their parents home usually) completely withdrawn from the outside world. Numbers are hard to pin down as many parents do not like to admit that their child has become a recluse, but the government is focused on the ‘2030 problem’ when the parents of the hikikomori generation begin to die and reintegration becomes necessary.

The aim of this story is not just to save books, but to save Rintaro. The cat and Rintaro enter a labyrinth hidden behind the walls of the bookshop, where they encounter different challenges and/or people.

Wisdom and sage advice can be found almost on every page.

It’s not true that the more you read, the more you see of the world. No matter how much knowledge you cram into your head, unless you think with your own mind, walk with your own feet, the knowledge you acquire will never be anything more than empty and borrowed.

But I need more than a whole stack of cute aphorisms and tips on how to read, even if I do agree with everything he has to say about the benefits and joys of slow reading and rereading.

Part fable, part fairy tale, part whimsical fantasy. A book that could probably have been reduced to a list of reading ‘do’s and don’t’s’, but then, where is the fun in that? If you’re looking for a light, easy read that confirms all the stuff you know is good about being a reader, then this is the book for you. Otherwise, completely fluffy and forgettable.

Books teach us how to care about others.

Bibliofile:

Title: The Cat Who Saved Books (original title 本を守ろうとする猫の話)
Author: Sōsuke Natsukawa
Translator: Louise Heal Kawai
Imprint: Picador
Published: 16th September 2021 (originally published 5th February 2017)
Format: paperback
Pages: 220

25 thoughts on “The Cat Who Saved Books | Sōsuke Natsukawa #JPNfiction

  1. I am sorry so far all your reads have been “meh”! But I loved your no holds barred review! LOVED it! “completely fluffy and forgettable”!!! I am not going to read the book and I do hope you find something substantial soon. But for now, I am totally entertained by your amazing review!

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  2. Oh, that’s frustrating when a book is only so-so! Personally, I have been slogging through the latest from Keigo Higashino, a writer I normally adore, and it wasn’t until the last third that I really became intrigued. Anyway, I have this on my list, and perhaps I will enjoy a light and easy read to “read/skim.” ☺️ Of all the other cat ones you listed, I really enjoyed The Travelling Cat Chronicles, which actually caused me to shed a few tears at the end.

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  3. Sorry this one didn’t work for you. I’ve seen so many mixed reviews of this and am interested in its message against the dumbing down of things and such so I will give it a go. Wish the car was less nasty though!

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  4. I don’t watch cute cat videos so I’m probably not a good judge, but there’s probably a whole market out there of young people who do like cats and also books “as long as they’re not too hard”.

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  5. Ah, that’s a shame – it’s quite an eye-catching title. It does sound quite simplistic, though. I see you have quite a collection of cat-themed Japanese literature building up there, so at least it was a good addition to that!

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