Book Review

The Cat Who Saved Books | Sosuke Natsukawa

The Cat Who Saved Books

Sosuke Natsukawa | Louise Heal Kawai (translator)

“Unless it is opened, a book possessing great power or an epic story is a mere scrap of paper.” — Sosuke Natsukawa

I shall be brutally honest: I bought this book because of the picture of a cat and some books on the cover. And I did not regret my arbitrary decision. It was fascinating.

The book is structured in an episodic manner and begins with the aftermath of the death of the protagonist’s grandfather. Deeply affected, Rintaro, the protagonist, has yet to fully process and accept this fact, trapped in his memory of his grandfather’s knowledge and love for books. Until a talking cat suddenly appears in front of him.

This is when Rintaro’s adventures start as he travels through four labyrinths with the cat as his guide and his classmate, Sayo, who cannot stand him being withdrawn from everyone. Rintaro is also forced to draw on his courage and memory of his grandfather during his journey through the labyrinths. Each labyrinth is an allegory about different types of readers, challenging Rintaro’s perspective and love towards books.

A reader who reads to impress but not to enrich, an academic who reads for the gist but not enjoying the process, a publisher who cares about profits but not literary preservation and a lady who reads so much her perception of reading is warped. Rintaro converses with them to understand their rationales and expresses his opinions regarding their actions as well.

What I enjoy about this book is neither the defence of reading nor the relevance of reading in current times. Rather, it is the growth of Rintaro from a shut-in — a hikikomori — into a confident proprietor of a bookshop. The bits and pieces of his introspection, as well as observations of his surroundings and Sayo’s attitude towards him.

While it is not exactly a coming-of-age story, I still find Rintaro’s growth interesting to read — the growth mirrors the despair one faces in the event of a closed one’s death and the resilience of walking out from that shadow. The ending note is what I enjoy most about the book. It is hopeful but not overly optimistic, typical of a slice-of-life genre in which there is no definite answer.


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