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decade or so as more and more young adults stay secluded in their bedrooms (in their parents home usually) completely withdrawn from the outside world.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.
- If Cats Disappeared from the World | Genki Kawamura
- A Cat, A Man and Two Women | Junichiro Tanizaki
- The Travelling Cat Chronicles | Hiro Arikawa
- The Guest Cat | Takashi Hiraide
- Read/skimmed for Japanese Literature Challenge 15
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
- This post was written in the Blue Mountains within the Ngurra (country) of the Dharug and Gundungurra peoples.