The Travelling Cat Chronicles (英語) ハードカバー – 2018/10/23
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On New York Post's Required Reading List
A book that “speak[s] volumes about our need for connection—human, feline or otherwise” (The San Francisco Chronicle), The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a life-affirming anthem to kindness and self-sacrifice that shows how the smallest things can provide the greatest joy.
We take journeys to explore exotic new places and to return to the comforts of home, to visit old acquaintances and to make new friends. But the most important journey is the one that shows us how to follow our hearts...
An instant international bestseller and indie bestseller, The Travelling Cat Chronicles has charmed readers around the world. With simple yet descriptive prose, this novel gives voice to Nana the cat and his owner, Satoru, as they take to the road on a journey with no other purpose than to visit three of Satoru's longtime friends. Or so Nana is led to believe...
With his crooked tail--a sign of good fortune--and adventurous spirit, Nana is the perfect companion for the man who took him in as a stray. And as they travel in a silver van across Japan, with its ever-changing scenery and seasons, they will learn the true meaning of courage and gratitude, of loyalty and love.
Praise for The Travelling Cat Chronicles
“Anyone who has ever unashamedly loved an animal will read this book with gratitude, for its understanding of an emotion that ennobles us as human beings, whether we value it or not.”—Lynne Truss, The Guardian
“It’s the wisdom and stoicism of the feline narrator that makes this book such an engaging read. Like Alison Jean Lester’s recent Yuki Means Happiness, it provides a fascinating insight into Japanese culture and traditions, but ultimately it doesn’t matter that it’s about a man and a cat. Like Of Mice and Men or The Kite Runner, Arikawa’s central concern is friendship and the things we’ll do for the people, or animals, that we love”—The Irish Times
“Continues the Japanese tradition of folkloric tales that celebrate simple values such as self-sacrifice and friendship. It has the warmth, painterly touch, and tenderness of a Studio Ghibli film—and is a delight to read.”—Financial Times
“A beautiful travelogue.”—The Sunday Morning Herald
"Like the very best cats, Hiro Arikawa's inventive tale sneaks up on you and works its way into your heart on its own terms. Once it does, it doesn't let go."—Steven Rowley, author of Lily and the Octopus
"At times comic, at times poignant, their trip is one this reader will remember with fondness for a long, long time.”—Philip Gabriel, translator of the English edition of The Travelling Cat Chronicles
“As simple as both the premise and prose of The Travelling Cat Chronicles, it’s a novel that will leave your heart both comfortably full and utterly raw.”—Bustle
“I doubt many readers—as cynical and hardened as they may—will get through it dry-eyed.”—NPR
“[Arikawa’s] book stands out within the world of cat literature...and it’s a world worth exploring.”—Time
“This touching novel of a brave cat and his gentle, wise human will resonate with lovers of animal tales, quiet stories of friendship, and travelogues alike.”—Publishers Weekly
“Perfect. Absolutely perfect. Hiro Arikawa is a masterful storyteller.”—Medium
“Gentle, soft-spoken, and full of wisdom.”—Kirkus Reviews
“With wisdom, humor and compassion, in The Traveling Cat Chronicles, Hiro Arikawa tells the story of a powerful bond between a man and his cat.”—Shelf Awareness
It's not even about the main character, Saturo, who is less than three-dimensional (his characteristics are generosity and joy at life, with no realistic negatives) and who seems to get lost into his friends. [For each, in different stages in his life, he switched interests (swimming, farming) or gave up a woman for the sake of his friend.] Other than these friends and his aunt, we learn little about him.
But it is about unconditional love.
Unconditional love exists between Saturo and his cat, Nana. The story only makes sense as adult fare when you recognize the two of them as both ends of a metaphor.
Saturo has offered unconditional love to his friends. When he travels to visit them hoping to find a home for his cat, he finds they are limited, and would not be able to provide a good home for Nana. Yet, each has an animal who might lead them to unconditional love.
In the fourth chapter (titled "3½: Between Friends"), Saturo and Nana share the 22 experiences (listed on page 245) that express Nana's happiness. "...you don't find such incredible love very often. That’s why I’m so happy."
The second to the last chapter (titled: "4: How Noriko Learns To Love") is not talking about any love. Noriko goes from acting out of guilt and duty, to unconditional love.
So why bother with the cat?
Otherwise, Saturo would be totally disappointing as the main character. We wouldn't believe he had no faults, no insecurities, no fears. But his "perfection" is believable when we're seeing him through the eyes of a cat who loves him. That doesn't mean his perfection doesn't exist. It is the aspect of him that can love unconditionally, the aspect that Nana loves in return.
Consider how terribly people grieve for a pet who has died. Many say it is because the pet loved the owner unconditionally. I suspect it's actually because the owner is allowed to love the pet unconditionally. That love and that loss is what this book is about.
I was hoping I would connect with this book more, being a fan of both cats and Japanese fiction. But this one fell flat for me. The story follows Satoru and his faithful cat Nana, as they travel around Japan trying to find Nana a new home. Satoru can no longer keep him for reasons that aren't stated (but that you can easily guess). However, as a former stray who converted to being a kept cat for Satoru and Satoru only, Nana is determined to stick by his owner and makes sure he ruins any chance of being left elsewhere. On their travels, they stop to visit with the people who shaped Satoru as he grew up and at each stop Nana learns about a new part of his beloved owner's life. Then their travels come to an end, and Nana shows what true friends are willing to sacrifice to be with one another.
While this was a very touching story, it was just an average read for me. I give the author no credit for making me cry at the end; it's just too easy. I didn't enjoy Nana's voice as narrator. There were problems with the translation, using the word tabby instead of calico, stroke instead of pet, chinchilla instead of Persian, ect. I wonder if the prose would have felt less clunky, and the story more enjoyable, if the translation had been better.
Plot spoilers may follow
It ends up being a review of the man's life as he visits friends along then way and it also develops that the owner is dying of cancer. He discovers many things about himself and ends up with his aunt, a judge, who raised him after his parents died. Various points of view are brought out in the story both from the owner, the cat and the people he meets along the way. This is a touching, thoughtful, interesting, moving story.
Satoru and Nana enjoy each other's company for five years and then Satoru takes Nana on trips to see old friends hoping that he can find a new home for Nana. We aren't told why Satoru wants to give away his beloved cat. While journeying to the homes of old friends we learn much about his sad childhood and what a lovely person he is. All of his friends are willing to keep Nana, but Nana has other ideas. He orchestrates a problem with the animals at each home so that he won't be left. Nana, of course, understands Japanese and speaks dog so you hear much of the story from him. (Translated to English, of course).
It took me a bit more than 50 pages to get interested in the story--so give it time. Yes, the book is a tear-jerker, but it is a lovely, sweet story that is worth reading.