Novel set in Tokyo (Chibi the charming cat)
- Book: The Guest Cat
- Location: Tokyo
- Author: Takashi Hiraide
Enchanting. Mesmerising. Beguiling. Charming. Thoughtful. Lyrical. Moving. Captivating…..
A middle aged couple is living in a quiet suburb of Tokyo, in a small guest house, set in the grounds of a larger mansion. Husband and wife are both involved in writing and books, and theirs is a low-key, slightly dusty life surrounded by their books and a beautiful garden. Nothing much happens in their world until a small cat arrives, and ruffles their regular routine. She is capricious and curious and soon inveigles herself into their home and becomes pivotal to their lives.
The novella is a low key read, by which I mean you can read, and walk into the story, the pace is slow and ruminative. It captures the feel of contemplative Japan, which still exists down the little back alleys of more rural/suburban settings – away from the Pachinko Parlours and neon glitz of the city centres. In Chibi’s world there are narrow lanes, fences, the black strands of the telephone wires criss-crossing above, tarmac and greenery fused at street level. It is very much a typical little suburban backwater that I could recognise from my own trips to Tokyo. I can now imagine with great clarity the lives behind the walls and fences, the little holes allowing cats to pass freely, the bicycles clanking by with riders on errands, bento boxes neatly stashed, fish and rice smells in their wake. This is a book to savour. It is written in a precise language, no extra words, it is genuinely beautifully crafted.
Is this a story about a cat? In part, but it is also a snapshot of life and space in late 20th century Tokyo, about a marriage, about people interacting and paths crossing.
The Guest Cat won Japan’s Kiama Shohei Literary Award and has been a bestseller in France and America.
The full review appears on our blog