You’ve probably all seen my gushing review for The Cabinet from last week – the book that basically sent me on a binge of translated fiction. So when I had the opportunity to review this adorable book – The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa, translated by Louise Heal Kawai – that featured books and cats – two of my very favourite things in the world – I quite literally jumped at it. I also did a silly and didn’t take a proper picture before I left the UK (I’m finally visiting my family in Switzerland) which means you have to make do with the cover image. However, it does not do it justice at all, the final cover is SO MUCH PRETTIER – it’s got this gold foil sprinkling that is so gorgeous… that alone is worth getting it!
Many thanks to Alice at Picador for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 16/09/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Grandpa used to say it all the time: books have tremendous power. But what is that power really?
Natsuki Books was a tiny second-hand bookshop on the edge of town. Inside, towering shelves reached the ceiling, every one crammed full of wonderful books. Rintaro Natsuki loved this space that his grandfather had created. He spent many happy hours there, reading whatever he liked. It was the perfect refuge for a boy who tended to be something of a recluse.
After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. This odd couple will go on three magical adventures to save books from people who have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone… (from Picador)
OPINIONS: This is such an adorable book. I don’t quite know how to categorise it – it’s not a children’s book, but you wouldn’t go amiss reading this with an eight year old. But at the same time, an elderly litfic aficionado would get just as much out of it as a young genre reader. I think this might be the kind of book that has universal appeal to people who love books (and probably cats) and that’s pretty much all of us. A love letter to books, bookshops and the magic that comes with them. And that is quite something.
The one thing that did irritate me a bit was how it seemed to be so oriented towards Western literature. It is sprinkled full of references to French and English classics and I was just sad that all the touchstones it used seemed to be so outside of what the world it was set in was – though I’m not sure to what extent that is standard in Japanese fiction. And maybe this was influenced by being read in such close succession to The Cabinet, which made no concessions towards Western readers, which made the contrast seem much starker than it actually was.
But as a whole, the book was absolutely wonderful. I think part of why I connected so much with it is because Rintaro inherits this bookshop from his grandfather, it is this sentimental place that reminds him of his favourite person. And for me, my grandma is my favourite person. She is that touchstone. And I am very lucky to still have her around – I actually get to spend some time with her right now – and she loves books and cats (especially cats) just as much as I do. So I guess it reminds me of her.
So like, if you like a hug in a book, this is the one to get. And if you love cats and books and wonderful and adorable, this is the book you need to read. Add The Cat Who Saved Books to your Goodreads here, or order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).