You must begin The Cat Who Saved Books by suspending your disbelief and letting yourself go with the flow of the story that, yes, does involve a talking cat that saves books. Translated from its original Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai, there is lovely lyrical syntax and a sort of dreamy quality that just wraps around you while reading.
Opening sentence: First things first, Grandpa’s gone.
For the love of books
This was a quick and uplifting read that centres around one of my favourite themes – books about books. Or rather, books that celebrate the joy of reading.
‘Books have tremendous power.‘ That was his grandfather’s mantra.
Rintaro Nasuki’s world is shattered when his grandfather, who raised him, dies. His grandfather owned a small second-hand bookshop, Natsuki Books, and instilled in Rintaro a love of reading and appreciation of the classics.
One day, while contemplating having to leave the book shop to go and live with his aunt, a tabby cat called Tiger comes into the store to visit Rintaro. He is a blunt and straight-talking (TALKING) cat on a mission. And he needs Nasuki’s help.
Don’t worry, Mr Proprietor. Only certain people are able to see me, and only under special conditions.
Tiger needs Rintaro to intervene is situations where people are trying, in various ways, to destroy books. They get transported into a labyrinth that runs on the power of truth – so Rintaro must get the people he is talking to to see their inner truth and save the books.
If a talking cat makes Alice in Wonderland spring to mind then you’re not alone in thinking that. The Cheshire Cat popped into my mind too, and along with the fact the cat takes Rintaro to a magical, other-wordly labyrinth to have adventures and – essentially – solve riddles, it has a lovely parallel. Some of the imagery conjured up also reminded me of the quirky The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami.
In today’s world, a lot of what should be obvious has been turned upside down.
The Cat Who Saved Books is a whimsical yet insightful allegory into grief, the grieving process, human nature and figuring out what’s important. It has a lovely message, all while singing the praises of reading and books. A delightful way to spend a few hours.
You can find my list of other books around this bookish theme here if you fancy it.
- Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC;
- Get your copy of The Cat Who Saved Books here;
- Published by Picador 16th September 2021;
- 224 pages;
- My rating: