The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

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The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A Japanese couple are 'adopted' by a local cat and quickly fall in love with her sweet personality and quirky ways.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Picador
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1447279402

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The Guest Cat had me at the cover. The reflective green material makes the cat's eyes glow and glint eerily in the light. There is something ethereal and otherworldly about this novella and that is before I've even read a single word. This simple story about a Japanese couple and the cat that decides to adopt them has become an international best-seller and I was keen to find out why.

The story is about a man and his wife who live a quiet life in a small house which is part of a mishmash neighbourhood known as “Lightning Alley”. The small boy next door decides to adopt a stray cat, who he calls 'Chibi'. At first Chibi is not overly-friendly, but her curiosity gets the better of her and soon she is exploring the house next door, where she becomes a frequent visitor. The man and his wife are not really 'cat people', but as time passes, they warm to their furry visitor and even set out food and a little bed for her. Soon Chibi has become part of the fabric of their lives: the wife cooks for her and writes a journal about her and the husband plays with her in the garden. When faced with the possibility that they may have to move house, the couple cannot cope with the idea that they may lose Chibi, even though she is not actually their cat.

Hiraide is a poet and his book has a gentle and unhurried tone. He takes in his surroundings and describes them in detail, often going off at various tangents to explore any topic that happens to spring to mind. The book is as much about Zen and mindfulness as it is about the cat. A whole chapter is dedicated to observing a dragonfly flitting in and out of an arc of water that the author has created with a hosepipe. Time stops. He observes his new friend and is completely absorbed in the moment. This style of writing may not appeal to everyone and there are those that would find it very slow, even dull, but I found it incredibly calming and relaxing to read.

The book has many themes and one is our relationship with nature; the fact that we are often too busy with our lives to just stop and really look at the beautiful natural world around us. Stop. Take it all in. Enjoy the little things.

The narrative is an observance of everyday life rather than an actual story and there are a lot of unanswered questions to ponder at the end. I wondered whether the story was a fictional account, or whether the events really did happen, as Hiraide tells everything in such detail, as if recalling a treasured memory.

The story will appeal to cat lovers, as they will definitely be able to relate to the adorable Chibi and her dual-personality. It is also an ideal book to just sit, read and relax with. As I sat reading it, I created a little oasis of calm and escapism from the world around me. This is the ultimate chill-out book, many thanks to the publishers for my review copy.

"The Guest Cat" frequently touches on Japanese culture. For more information on this topic, we suggest reading Japan Through The Looking Glass by Alan Macfarlane

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Buy The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide at


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