I love cats. Love love love cats. So The Guest Cat, which centers around the relationship between a bohemian writer couple and their neighbor’s cat, was a very enjoyable book. Juan Vidal’s NPR review of this book says, in part: “Whether you’re a cat lover or not, don’t pass this one up based on any preconceived anything. The deceptively simple plot plunges you — what seems like effortlessly — into a world of art, philosophy and the mysterious nature of our ties to other living things. Ultimately, it’s about what it means to love and to lose.”
I couldn’t phrase it better myself.
A husband and wife, both freelance editors, move into a cottage on the grounds of a large house. Neither of them are cat lovers. But then, the neighbor’s tiny white cat, Chibi, comes to visit them, and they are instantly charmed. The wife of the couple, in particular, develops a close bond with Chibi. The days go by and the seasons pass, and Chibi becomes the couple’s honored guest.
As in life, however, there’s an unexpected event which changes both the couple and their circumstances. The emotional heft of the story changes as well, and it is deft rather than ham-fistedly sentimental. It’s all quiet and achingly honest, just like the rest of the book.
Stylistically, I love the poetic feel of the novel. Hiraide is a poet, so that makes sense. Yet even in translation this novel is spare, simple, and elegant. The descriptions are beautiful in their simplicity. Toward the end the novel takes a turn, and becomes a bit meta, but it all still works. It’s the sort of rewarding novel you can read over and over again, always finding new gems and reveling in the prose.
I’ll be honest, though: I mostly just like reading about cats. If the same is true for you, you’ll smile knowingly A LOT while reading The Guest Cat.
Want to see a picture of my cats? Good, because you’re going to!
I hope you find a kitty-cat to hug today!