For my 2022 Reading Challenge, my theme for January is books in translation. The first audiobook I chose for that challenge is The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, originally written in Japanese. The English translation for it arrived in the U.S. in October 2018, though I picked it up more recently. As a lifelong cat lover, I was excited to dive into this feline tale.
|The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa|
|Audiobook Narrator||George Blagden|
|Book Length||6 hours|
|Format I Read||Audiobook|
|Original Publication Date||October 23, 2018 (USA)|
Sometimes you have to leave behind everything you know to find the place you truly belong…
Nana the cat is on a road trip. He is not sure where he’s going or why, but it means that he gets to sit in the front seat of a silver van with his beloved owner, Satoru. Side by side, they cruise around Japan through the changing seasons, visiting Satoru’s old friends. He meets Yoshimine, the brusque and unsentimental farmer for whom cats are just ratters; Sugi and Chikako, the warm-hearted couple who run a pet-friendly B&B; and Kosuke, the mournful husband whose cat-loving wife has just left him. There’s even a very special dog who forces Nana to reassess his disdain for the canine species.
But what is the purpose of this road trip? And why is everyone so interested in Nana? Nana does not know and Satoru won’t say. But when Nana finally works it out, his small heart will break…
The Travelling Cat Chronicles starts off from the perspective of a cat named Nana – although he doesn’t have any name when the book begins. He’s a stray cat, about one year old, who happily receives food from a kind man. One day, this cat gets hit by a car and has an injured leg. He seeks out the friendly human in the hopes that he’ll get him healed. Sure enough, the man – Satoru – takes in the cat, eventually adopting him and naming him Nana (Japanese for “seven”) in honor of his crooked tale.
Fast forward five years, and Satoru can no longer keep Nana. He wants to find his cat a good, caring home and gets in touch with some friends from his school years to see if any of them would be willing to take in Nana. Each chapter follows Satoru and Nana as they visit his childhood friends, determining whether any would be the right home for Nana.
These chapters don’t just show Nana’s perspective on things (more on that in a moment!); they also delve into Satoru and his friends’ pasts. First we get to see how Satoru was in elementary school and the friend he met in his swimming classes. Later we get to know his middle school friend, and after that, two friends from high school. In each case, we get to know these characters as they are now versus how they were as kids and teenagers. There’s something gentle and familiar about this book, about getting to know children characters even though this is a book for adults.
I enjoyed learning more about Satoru, the events that shaped him, and how he was consistently a kind and thoughtful friend to everyone he knew. It’s also clear how much he always loved cats.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles is largely a book of friendship, family, and compassion. However, it is also about the close bond a between pet and human. Satoru, a true cat person, loves Nana. Likewise, Nana loves Satoru and will do anything to stay with him for life. As a cat person myself, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this connection and companionship.
For his part, Nana is an excellent character – one of my favorite first-person POVs I’ve read in any book! He’s a bit sassy and judgmental, but he’s also intelligent and loyal. He offers wonderful opinions, both positive and negative, about humans, dogs, cats, and other animals. His perspective on TVs, for example, is also funny. I also enjoy his reaction to Japan’s geography as he and Satoru travel around the country, facing oceans, mountains, and fields.
Nana’s personality helps to counteract the novel’s heavier themes. Later on, things become quite sad, and if you’re like me, you may cry a bit. But even with the emotional parts, The Travelling Cat Chronicles ends on a note of joy, love, and connection.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a sweet and gentle novel that will appeal to any pet owner, especially anyone with a cat. It’s about that deep bond between human and animal, but it’s also about friendship and family, too. It’s a little bit fun, a little bit emotional, and beautifully written all the way through.
About the Author
Hiro Arikawa won the tenth annual Dengeki Novel Prize for new writers for Shio no Machi: Wish on My Precious in 2003, and the book was published the following year. It was praised for its love story between a heroine and hero divided by age and social status, and for its depiction of military structures. Although she is a light novelist, her books from her second work onwards have been published as hardbacks alongside more literary works with Arikawa receiving special treatment in this respect from her publisher, MediaWorks. Shio no Machi was also later published in hardback. Her 2006 light novel Toshokan Sensō (The Library War) was named as Hon no Zasshi’s number one for entertainment for the first half of 2006, and came fifth in the Honya Taishō for that year, competing against ordinary novels.
She often writes about the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and her first three novels concerning its three branches are known as the Jieitai Sanbusaku (The SDF Trilogy); she also wrote about the fictional Library Forces in the Toshokan Sensō series. Raintree no Kuni, which first appeared as a book within a book in Toshokan Nairan was later published by Arikawa as a spin-off with another publisher. It was adapted into a film titled World of Delight released on November 21, 2015.Her novel Shokubutsu Zukan (ja) will be adapted into a film titled Shokubutsu Zukan: Unmei no Koi, Hiroimashita and scheduled for release on June 4, 2016.