Saturday, 20 June 2015

Review: The Guest Cat

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide was one of those books that just jumped out at me as being a perfect fit as a present for someone, specifically for my flatmate, who loves cats and also enjoyed Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. I gave it to her as a birthday present, but almost immediately wanted to buy myself a copy too. Thankfully, I was spared the expense as my flatmate agreed to lend it to me.

Though the book's blurb sold it as a story of a practically estranged couple coming together through their shared love of a visiting cat, it's actually a lot more subtle than that. The story - if you can even call it that - is told almost as a series of reminiscences. The tone is very gentle and introspective, and the description of scenarios and events is punctuated by philosophical musings, as well as some quite poetic passages.

Particularly striking was the narrator's relationship to nature. Chibi the cat, who visits the narrator's home regularly, takes on a full personality, with her own little habits and quirks, and her relationship to the neighbourhood cats is described in detail. Even plants and insects are given enough attention and reverence as to almost make them characters in their own right, while the humans, all of them unnamed, take a very deliberate backseat.

I think this will be a book that sticks with me for a long time, and that I will revisit often in my mind. I am a little surprised that the book is a New York Times bestseller, as I can kind of see it as the type of thing that wouldn't appeal to everyone, but it really worked for me and I'm glad to see it has worked for so many other people too. The ending did leave me a little confused, but overall what I took away was a strong sense of atmosphere and a heightened awareness and appreciation of the world around me.

I also found this review of The Guest Cat, which I think captures the essence of the novella really well. This article in Japan Times also gives a bit of context about stories about cats in modern Japanese literature, which I found really interesting.

What did you think of The Guest Cat? What is your favourite piece of Japanese literature? Let me know in the comments!


  1. What a beautiful cover! This sounds like a book that could be healing in troublesome times.

    1. Hi Joy! Yes, I think that's exactly how this book could be described. A really lovely read :) thanks for your comment


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