Book Review: The Travelling Cat Chronicles (Doubleday Publishing, 2017)

The Travelling Cat Chronicles

by Hiro Arikawa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is it earth-shattering? No.

Does it change the literary landscape? No.

Is it deep and powerful and life-changing? Not really for most I suppose.
But it has been an experience.

It’s slow, gentle, sweet and filled with humour that almost never goes beyond small chuckles. I won’t spoil it but it’s like a gentle rollercoaster or more accurately a mellow train-ride with a plethora of views – from pretty and colourful, to heart-warming to bleak and melancholy and everything in between.

The basic story concerns a stray cat who keeps to himself and is both streetwise and self-sufficient, a true solitary and proud cat. He does not like people nor care to deal with them – all except one young man named Satoru who leaves him munchies and out of a sort of pitiable understanding, he allows Satoru to pet him, just a little. Then one day a tragic event takes place: the Cat is hit by a car and is lying wounded with no one to help because who will help a stray? Perhaps the young man who leaves the food. And he does.

And so begins a wonderful friendship – one that made me actually reconsider felines as domestic pets (being waaay more of a dog person myself) and was genuinely touching to read their relationship. All is well until one day Satoru starts to take Nana (the name he allows the young human to call him) on road trips around the country to the homes of different friends to ask if they will adopt him. Nana however is determined to not let go of HIS human at any cost.

Perhaps it is the timing of reading the book for me that has added weight to it (my dad was ill for years and passed away about 2/3rds way through my reading of this book) but the emotions for me from the very first chapter have been so engaging and real. The switch in perspective from 3rd person human narration to the 1st person narration of our eponymous Cat is handled quite well, it never feels jarring or awkward and both sides together slowly but surely over the course of several chapters, paint a picture of a remarkable life – one filled with a gentle, deep humanity despite being marked time and again by loss and sadness.

To me, it was a great reflection of the truly average and normal life. Something we need to appreciate more because the average person who has an “unremarkable” life that doesn’t change the world, greatly outnumber the great heroes and shapers of iconic fortunes and failures. It is a reflection of the little things, of the impacts we can have without even realising it on the lives of others around us over our lifetime – of the value of a choice, a moment, a life.

It reminds me strangely of a quote I heard long ago and never forgot:

“They also serve, those who stand and wait.”

View all my reviews

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