After my last post – mostly spent exploring the history of bicycles in Taiwan – we are still in the far east. This time, however, I’m back on the more familiar ground of a novel written from the point of view of an animal. My last pet narrator was a post-apocalyptic dog so a street wise Japanese cat makes for an interesting contrast. Obviously a much more self-centred sort of character – when I was 6 years old I thought our pet dog was my best friend, now I have a cat who won’t even consider sitting on my lap and spends most of her time sat behind the hi-fi speakers – because, well, cats…
The cat in this story begins as a nameless stray, willing to accept food from a kind-hearted human but happy living on the streets of a Japanese town. He permits himself to be taken in after an incident with a car leaves him with a badly broken leg and soon finds himself a beloved pet, with a name and a strong attachment to Satoru Miyawaki, his rescuer. He has become a fully fledged companion animal and, although he’s sure he could go back to living as a stray, he becomes as attached to Satoru as a cat can. So, when Satoru begins trying to find someone to take the cat, now known as Nana, off his hands we are, initially, confused. As Satoru takes Nana to visit various friends from his childhood and early adulthood (to see if cat and friend are compatible – they never quite are…) we begin to realise that there must be a serious reason for him to be parted from his beloved pet. It didn’t take me until the final scenes of the book to realise what this ‘serious reason’ was but it was only the closing few pages that had me sobbing.
This was a wonderful book. Beautifully written (and translated) with a lovely contrast between the personalities of sensitive, kind Satoru and tough, straight-talking Nana it tells a deceptively simple story of a young man seeking to rehome a pet. But the heart of the book is a reminder of the fact that we are made most human by the love we show for others (even if you are, in fact, a cat).