The Travelling Cat Chronicles has been languishing on my ever-growing TBR for ages now. Every book lover’s woe, isn’t it? Its existence might have remained unnoticed if not for a reading challenge I am participating in. The prompt for this month was to choose a book featuring an animal on the cover. And I am delighted beyond words, that I picked up this (p)awsome book! Originally written in Japanese by Hiro Arikawa, the English translation is courtesy of Philip Gabriel.
This literary gem reminded me of The Art Of Racing In The Rain, another equally captivating book with an animal narrator.
In this story, the narrator is a stray cat. But mind you, he is not an ordinary cat. This feline is feisty, witty, sarcastic, overconfident, straightforward, and most importantly, wise! Satoru, a bachelor in his 30s, starts taking care of the stray that has claimed his silver van as home. Following an unforeseen incident, Satoru adopts the stray, of course, with his consent, and names him Nana. The cat is not quite fond of the name but doesn’t care much for it as he falls in love with Satoru.
Later, due to unforeseen circumstances, Satoru is unable to take care of Nana. Determined to find him a loving home, Satoru takes Nana on a trip to meet his friends, who might adopt him. And thus begins the cat’s long journey in the silver van. Yet it is not just Satoru and Nana who are traveling; the author takes the readers on a memorable journey across Japan.
As Satoru meets old friends and rekindles his relationships, we gain a deeper understanding of his character. His past and present are woven together seamlessly, and without even realising it, I became deeply involved in their lives. That’s the magic of Arikawa’s writing. He is indeed a master storyteller.
This book is sad and surprisingly humourous at the same time. I was both giggling and reaching for tissues while travelling with Nana. I can’t recall any of my recent reads that made me laugh and cry so much at the same time.
The narration alternates between Nana’s and a third-person POV. Both POVs are well-balanced and complement each other in taking the story forward. And the epilogue ties up the story perfectly, providing a perfect conclusion.
This review is incomplete if I don’t mention a few of my favourite lines
It’s not the journey that counts, but who is at your side.
Life, be it human or feline, doesn’t always work out the way you think it will.
Humans who think we don’t understand them are the stupid ones.
The sea is where you go to reminisce when you are far away from home.
If you’ve to consider what’s going to happen after you die, life becomes doubly troublesome.
My story will be over soon. But it’s not something to be sad about. As we count up the memories from one journey, we head off on another. Remembering those who will follow after. And someday, we will meet all those people again, out beyond the horizon.
If you are a cat lover, Nana, and his brethren already have a place in your heart. And if you are not, Nana will turn you into a cat lover. Who knows, you might end up finding yourself with your own Nana!
The Travelling Cat Chronicles has found a special place not just on my bookshelf but in my heart, too. Everyone, yes, everyone should read this book.
Wordsopedia Rating 5/5
|Title: The Travelling Cat Chronicles
|Author: Hiro Arikawa
|Publisher: Transworld Digital
|Publication date: 2 Nov 2017
|No. of Pages: 256
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About the author
Hiro Arikawa won the tenth annual Dengeki Novel Prize for new writers for Shio no Machi: Wish on My Precious in 2003, and the book was published the following year. It was praised for its love story between a heroine and hero divided by age and social status, and for its depiction of military structures. Although she is a light novelist, her books from her second work onwards have been published as hardbacks alongside more literary works with Arikawa receiving special treatment in this respect from her publisher, MediaWorks. Shio no Machi was also later published in hardback. Her 2006 light novel Toshokan Sensō (The Library War) was named as Hon no Zasshi’s number one for entertainment for the first half of 2006, and came fifth in the Honya Taishō for that year, competing against ordinary novels.