Title: The Cat Who Saved Books
Author: Sosuke Natsukawa; translation by Louise Heal Kawai
Genre: Current Lit/ Fantasy
Page Count: 217
Publication Date: December 7, 2021
After finishing Manchán Magan’s Thirty-Two Words for Field, I was feeling drained from reading. The book was beautiful, but my inability to pronounce half of the words I was reading took a bit out of me. I knew that my next story needed to be shorter and easier to digest. I have had Natsukawa’s novella on my shelf for about a year now, and it’s thin compact size convinced me it was the perfect transition from a dense and informative read.
Natsukawa’s 217-page fiction is about Rintaro, a high schooler who’s grandfather (and guardian) passes away, leaving him in charge of the second-hand bookshop they ran together. While navigating his grief and his looming move to his aunt’s far from the only home he has ever known, Rintaro becomes a hikikomori or a person who decides on their own volition to shut themselves away from the world.
While keeping himself contained in his literary sanctuary, he is confronted by Tiger, a talking tabby cat who recruits Rintaro to help him save books from within a fantastical world of labrynths. Soon Sayo, Rintaro’s classmate who has taken it upon herself to check up on him regularly, is roped into helping on his mission to save the great works of literature that many overlook in modern day society.
This quick read is a love letter to real readers — the ones that are willing to battle through classical slogs that can take months to complete and are often hard to understand the first, second, or even third time you open them. It’s an ode to the lonely who find solice in the written word. Most importantly, it’s a reminder to everyone that no one is ever truly alone as long as they have a good book and listening ear on their side.
For such a short fable, I was truly taken by the philosphical nature within its pages — it reminded me of Alice in Wonderland in many respects, but with more realism involved. This work may be considered adult literature now, but I could see myself reading it to my children as a bedtime story in the future. Its a gettable tale, with a sassy cat, and a wonderful lesson. There’s a timelessness to a book like this, and I can easily see it becoming a future classic that families share across generations.
Buy your copy of Natsukawa’s novella here.