Today’s book review is about THE CAT WHO SAVED BOOKS by Sosuke Natsukawa. Magical realism takes the reader on a philosophical adventure with a high schooler and a talking cat. Together they save books to keep them alive and unique and where they belong: actively being read by fellow book lovers.
Author: Sosuke Natsukawa
Age Category: Young Adult/Adult
Publish Date: December 7, 2021
Print Length: 208
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From the #1 bestselling author in Japan comes a celebration of books, cats, and the people who love them, infused with the heartwarming spirit of The Guest Cat and The Travelling Cat Chronicles.
Bookish high school student Rintaro Natsuki is about to close the secondhand bookstore he inherited from his beloved bookworm grandfather. Then, a talking cat appears with an unusual request. The feline asks for—or rather, demands—the teenager’s help in saving books with him. The world is full of lonely books left unread and unloved, and the cat and Rintaro must liberate them from their neglectful owners.
Their mission sends this odd couple on an amazing journey, where they enter different mazes to set books free. Through their travels, the cat and Rintaro meet a man who leaves his books to perish on a bookshelf, an unwitting book torturer who cuts the pages of books into snippets to help people speed read, and a publishing drone who only wants to create bestsellers. Their adventures culminate in one final, unforgettable challenge—the last maze that awaits leads Rintaro down a realm only the bravest dare enter . . .
An enthralling tale of books, first love, fantasy, and an unusual friendship with a talking cat, The Cat Who Saved Books is a story for those for whom books are so much more than words on paper.
Translated from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai.
I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. The publisher indicated that this e-proof was made from digital files of the uncorrected proofs and reminded readers that changes may be made prior to publication. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.
You know, it’s really nice when a book lives up to its synopsis. I read a few last year where that wasn’t quite the case, so it set me up for some disappointment and confusion. Since the summary speaks for itself, I’ll jump right into my impressions.
Rintaro is a self-described hikikomori, or someone who prefers social isolation. Since his grandfather died, he burrows more into this way of living. The adventures on which he embarks with a talking cat serve as a way to engage him in problem-solving and decision-making. But, more than that, I couldn’t help but wonder if this book is a quiet commentary on the enjoyment of reading and the publishing industry.
On their first journey, Rintaro meets a man who reads every book he can get his hands on. This man views the number of books read as a status and power symbol, putting them on display for all to see how much he’s read. The second man Rintaro encounters literally trims down books to their essence to help people read more books in a shorter amount of time. And the third man Rintaro meets only cares about and publishes books, or book formulas, that he knows will fly right off the shelves. Rintaro must convince them that these ways of thinking don’t do justice by the books or for the readers.
This is an interesting way of presenting how it can feel like current society’s group thought is to just keep running, just keep comparing yourself to others, and go with the status quo. Rintaro is the person who encourages these men (and the reader) to take a step back, to enjoy a story for all of what it is. In reality, the number of books you can read doesn’t mean you’re better than someone else. Take the time to enjoy the full story and don’t worry about how fast you can read a book. And if what’s popular isn’t your cup of tea, then there are plenty of new and old stories from which to choose; what you read doesn’t have to fall into a current bestseller category.
The outcome of each adventure is more or less predictable, and the plot isn’t complicated. But hopefully this story will make you stop and think for a minute about its larger meaning. The characters are a little flat and not super memorable, but it’s not off-putting. It’s a calm, easy read–a nice palate cleanser, if you will, if you’re coming off reading several books in a row from the same genre.
Content warnings: mention of family member death, kidnapping
Reading format: Kindle e-book