31 October 2016

Review #545: The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Cats are connoisseurs of comfort.”

----James Herriot

Takashi Hiraide, a Japanese writer, has penned a soul touching and thoroughly captivating tale about a cat and a couple's relationship in his book, The Guest Cat that is centered around a mid aged couple who are freelance writers and work from their rented cottage and lead a very quite and uneventful life, but one day their life brings purpose as an uninvited as well as the neighbor's cat lands up to their kitchen and starts visiting their household religiously everyday and gradually brings joy and happiness to their quiet life. Although happiness is long lived in this couple's life, as a tragic event shakes them to their very core.


A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. They work at home as freelance writers. They no longer have very much to say to one another.
One day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. She is a beautiful creature. She leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. New, small joys accompany the cat; the days have more light and colour. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife; they go walking together, talk and share stories of the cat and its little ways, play in the nearby Garden. But then something happens that will change everything again.
The Guest Cat is an exceptionally moving and beautiful novel about the nature of life and the way it feels to live it.

A middle aged couple who works as freelance writer has been living in a small rented house attached to a palatial cottage owned by an old age couple and that cottage has huge gardens filled with lush trees and flowers. This mid-aged couple's life is not that eventful and most of the time they pass their days without much talking among one another. But then one fine day, their lives are filled with a purpose when a guest cat, the cat of their neighbor's, visits their household and start visiting them day after day, fixing her daily routine among the couple's life. Gradually the man and the wife start discussing about the cat's habits and cute little activities of the cat among one another as their lives are fulfilled with greater joy that the cat manged to bring within no time, but this happiness is short lived with the changing politics and the rising economy, as the land prices began to soar up, the owners of the palatial cottage decide to sell the whole property with an ultimatum given to that mid-aged couple, but for them it is not easy to part with that female guest cat, and as another shocking tragic event strikes up in their lives, which completely destroys every ounce of happiness that they felt for all those times when they were surrounded by that cat.

A warm meow to all my fellow cat lovers. Here's the book that you've been yearning to read for ages now, grab a copy now and lose yourselves in the cuteness of the cat named Chibi (meaning, little one) who will fill up your hearts with happiness and will bring a clam feeling just by reading about her daily activities. Chibi is no ordinary cat, she can instantly make you folks crazy for her charm, her cleverness and her naughtiness. She is a package of fur(n) ball that you would desire to cuddle up with whole day. So without wasting a second, simply get your hands on this book NOW.

The writing style of the author is extremely evocative and thoughtfully layered with hear felt emotions that will make the readers contemplate with the story's emotional side strikingly. The narrative is articulate, pleasing and is laced with perfect emotions that sync well with the story's mood. The dialogues are enriched with the heavy Japanese flair even though the story has been translated into English. There are quite a few underlying stories that support the main story line, still the pacing is quite fast as the readers will find themselves being swayed from the then Japanese political and socio-economical changes and the season changes to the cat's daily habits amidst the low hum drum of the couple's life.

The backdrop of the story line, that is portrayed through the subtle color of the landscapes of rural Japan, is vividly captured and depicted through a lyrical prose that will not only make the readers feel the atmosphere and the seasons in the air but will also make them able to visually imagine each and every scenes unfolding right before their eyes. The landscapes of this rural town just a few miles away from the big city, Tokyo is strikingly painted through its streets, the flora as well as the fauna, the weather, the people, the livelihood of those folks, the architecture of the houses, the financial conditions and the local staple food. The author manages to bring alive this town through the narration of the protagonist and amidst the tales of this cute little naughty cat.

The characters are extremely well drawn and developed through few layers, especially the character of the wife is arrested through quite a few layers and the readers will project her as a humble, down-to-earth yet complex lady, whose many layers are unraveled through her straight forward yet thoughtful demeanor. The main protagonist, the writer, is a strong character whose resolute voice reads like a soothing balm on the readers' hearts. The cat too has a personality of its own, like how the cat is clever enough to keep the humans especially the couple eager to make them hear the sound of her voice, how she never lets the couple touch her or pet her, how she is clever enough to know the exclusive entry made for her to the couple's house and how she plays with the ping pong ball is enough to fill the readers' hearts with glowing happiness from inside out. even the supporting characters like the old lady, the friend of the author, the neighbors are also well crafted out from scratch who are not only real but are also very interesting.

In a nutshell, this is a must read story not only for cat lovers but also for those who enjoy a well developed literary tale with a Japanese flavor.

Verdict: Chibi, the cat, simply steals the show, which is a fur ball wrapped in intense cuteness.

Courtesy: Thanks to the BiblioBox for picking out this book for their October theme.

Author Info:
Takashi Hiraide was born in Moji, Kitakyushu in 1950. He has published numerous books of poetry as well as several books of genre-bending essays, including one on poetics and baseball. He has also written a novel, A Guest Cat; a biography of Meiji poet Irako Seihaku; and a travelogue that follows the traces of Kafka, Celan, and Benjamin in Berlin. His poetry book, Postcards to Donald Evans, is published by the Tibor de Nagy Foundation. Hiraide is a professor of Art Science and Poetics as well as a core member of the new Institute for Art Anthropology at Tama Art University. For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut won the 2009 Best Translated Book Award for poetry.
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