I am always keen to try new genres and styles, so when I spotted a book in translation about a travelling cat, I was intrigued. The travelling cat chronicles is a book by Hiro Arikawa, translated by Philip Gabriel. I have read translated books in the past and found them to be fascinating. Not only do they give you insight into new and exciting cultures, but they carry the voice of both the author and the translator. It’s clearly not as straight forward as putting it in Google translate…
Nana the cat is on a road trip across Japan with Satori, the owner he adores, and his trusty silver van. Along the way Nana meets Satori’s old friends, reminiscing with stories of times past, both good and bad. But what is the purpose of the trip? And what does it mean for Satori and Nana?
This book had a really interesting hook; although the stories of Satori’s past are told through the eyes of his friends, the rest of the book is through the eyes of Nana. Sounds crazy right? It shouldn’t have worked, but it really did. Nana had all the sarcasm and quick wit that you would expect from a cat. In places it was genuinely really funny. The relationship between Satori and his beloved cat is just wonderful, not soppy, and very believable. But right from the get-go you realise that something is really wrong. It’s not obvious straight away, but there is just a background feeling of discomfort. A sadness that blossoms. I won’t ruin it for you.
What I did love (and can talk about) were the descriptions of Japan; the beauty and vibrancy of the landscape and nature. A couple of friends of mine are currently travelling around Japan so I can see how true to life some of the descriptions truly are. It’s definitely on my ‘to visit’ list. Each chapter had a beautiful little line-drawings of cats and there is even a bit at the end which explains the choice of front cover design. Each and every character was well put together and had a real purpose in the story, although Nana is my absolute favourite.
All in all, I really enjoyed this little book, despite the sadness. It was a beautiful story about the importance of love and friendship, no matter what.