It’s been a while since I read a book from cover to cover, and I have to admit this one kept me hooked to the pages, always wanting more, even at the very end.
Considering that it is but a simple tale of an equanimous and plucky puss with his master, you would scoff at how riveted I was to this story. I must confess everything about this book resonated deeply with me, being a cat lover myself. Yes, I said it – I’m an ailurophile.
It’s not that I dislike dogs and other popular pet animals; it’s just that cats and me, we just tend to be on the same wavelength. Oh, and cats are simply super adorable, so that helps.
But back to the book at hand.
When I use the word simple, I mean it in the purest and most literal sense – the translated writing is an unassuming, uncomplicated prose that draws the reader in and takes us on a road trip through a magical land.
Except there is no magic involved, at least not the high fantasy, otherworldly and vividly colourful type magic. But the story definitely binds you with a spell.
In gentle words and soft treads belonging to a cat lover, Ms. Arikawa navigates the idyllic cities and countrysides of Japan through the eyes of the protagonist – a stray cat named Nana.
Yes, you read that correctly. The cat is a male. Named Nana. Yes, like what you would call your granny. Maybe you should go call her now, it’s been a while.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles starts off like any other romance novel – cat meets boy, boy likes cat, love ensues, and they lived happily ever after, dancing away into the sunset. Don’t worry, no spoiler alert necessary, I’m being a little facetious here in case you didn’t notice. But I’m not pulling your leg when I say this is a love story. A simple love story between a cat and a man, and their travels around the world.
The calm pace of the story, the tranquil descriptions of the world they occupy, the interaction of humans and pets and nature – and there is hint of something more. Surely there must be something underneath it all?
I must say though, Nana’s owner, Mr. Satoru, is clearly one of those guys that only exist in fiction, those too-good-to-be-true, heart-of-pure-gold type characters. Calm and conscientious, providing pure, unadulterated love and care for his one and only cat. Sure, he does show hint of a tiny flaw here and there, but really the truly relatable character is the cat.
And I must say, the author really pinned a cat’s thoughts and behaviour down to a hair! Everything Nana says (or at least thinks or expresses in cat language) and does is precisely something an actual cat would do, with motives not altogether far-fetched from an actual feisty feline.
Nana is the entertainer, the comic relief, the one who says what he thinks and does what he wants. The snake, the charmer, the genie – all in one. His wish is his command.
Now although I use words like ‘simple’ and ‘tranquil’ and ‘discombobulate’, this story is by no means without heart and emotion. All the characters are grounded and face real-world problems with believable backstories. All have suffered in some way, such that it would be impossible for readers not to relate to the characters on some level. And when you think everything is hunky-dory, the peaceful plot bats you off the ledge with a left hook you thought you saw coming but it’s too late you’re sobbing through your black eye and now you realise you want a cat so bad.
I’m kidding – it’s certainly not a heavy book, no War and Peace, no Grapes of Wrath, and definitely no crying involved. At least not by the reader.
All this because of a cat.
To say I was deeply touched by this book would be like saying Disney made some nice cartoons. I went into it thinking it would be a mildly droll tale, and then bam! Curiosity killed the cat. Not literally, of course. No animals, fictional or otherwise, were harmed in the making of this review. And the original story. I think. Oh wait, there was that accident.
This book didn’t just make me reminisce my cat or dream about travelling to Japan, it made me marvel at how our sweetest little companions can bring people together, can make worlds collide or come crashing down, and how sad it would be for someone to have never known the pure, unconditional love that an animal can give.
I daresay this love story could rival any of those top romance dramas out there, as the love a human has for their pet can rival and outshine the love one feels for another human being.
Perhaps I’m being melodramatic, or perhaps you simply haven’t known the true extent and depth with which a human can love and bond and care for his or her soul animal, loyal companion and unwavering friend, and how said animal can return that love.
But animals cannot possibly fathom the depth or intricacies of love that we humans experience, you might say.
I know not what deep or profound love it is you speak of, except that of two souls travelling together through life in harmony, caring for each other despite their differences. A simple bond, a simple love. What more do you want? What more do you need?
Cats recite the poetry of nature, dogs sing the songs of the earth and sky, and do I sound like furry now or what?
You know, I’ve never been certain what this whole furry movement is about, but I damn sure ain’t talking about that kind of animal love, mmkay?
All this because of a cat.
Anyway, kudos if you got this far. My review has almost turned into a bit of tale itself. If you like pets and animals, go read the book. If you don’t, then…go read the book and you might find you’re missing out on something.