The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
A bestseller in Japan and now internationally, The Travelling Cat Chronicles (translated by Murakami translator Philip Gabriel) takes us on the road with Nana and his owner Satoru. Taken in by Satoru as a stray, Nana can’t understand why after five years of living together, Satoru is determined to find him a new place to live. Together they travel throughout Japan, visiting people from Satoru’s childhood (plus a number of animals) along the way.
The purpose behind Satoru’s trip soon becomes obvious, but the joy of this book is in becoming involved in the journey and invested in its characters. Each of the people Satoru visits gives important background to Satoru’s personality, as well as providing their own individual story and revelations. There is Kosuke, with whom Satoru experiences a family tragedy; Yoshimine, who finds peace in farming to escape physically and emotionally distant parents; and Sugi and Chikako, who now run a pet-friendly B&B.
Despite the obvious presence of the feline, I would urge people not to dismiss this as a ‘cat book’: it is too much about human interaction and relationships to be so simply defined. That said, the key relationship is between Nana and Satoru, and we are privy to many of Nana’s thoughts: often witty, sometimes harsh, yet always honest. I expected this book to pull at the heartstrings and it does – but in the best possible way, without becoming overly sentimental. At its centre, this is a novel about the importance of friendship, connection and loyalty; whether it be with a childhood friend with whom you once ran away from home, or a four-legged companion who refuses to leave your side. This is a novel with wide appeal. I predict it will make a popular gift come Christmas.