Wednesday, 26 October 2016

IFOA 2016 Blog Tour - "The Guest Cat" by Takashi Hiraide - Review

Hi everyone! So, I have a very exciting post for you all today. Today is my stop on the IFOA (International Festival of Authors) Blog Tour! I was contacted by the lovely Marcie to participate and I was so excited because I've attended a few IFOA events in the past and really enjoyed them. I am especially excited because the book I'm reviewing for you all today is a translated text from Japan! I love contemporary Japanese literature and poetry, so I instantly knew from the list of texts featured, this one was right up my alley. I'm going to follow the regular Padfoot's Library review structure and at the end, offer you some details about the festival! :D

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
(Translated by Eric Selland)

Publishing Date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: WW Norton
Pages: 140

The Premise from the Publisher: "A bestseller in France and winner of Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, The Guest Cat, by the acclaimed poet Takashi Hiraide, is a subtly moving and exceptionally beautiful novel about the transient nature of life and idiosyncratic but deeply felt ways of living. A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo; they work at home, freelance copy-editing; they no longer have very much to say to one another. But one day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. It leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. Soon they are buying treats for the cat and enjoying talks about the animal and all its little ways. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife — the days have more light and color. The novel brims with new small joys and many moments of staggering poetic beauty, but then something happens…." (Publisher/Goodreads Premise)

My overall thoughts and review: As a graduate student, my current research interests include anime/manga, though occasionally, I like to dabble in a bit of Japanese contemporary literature. I was even considering making that my primary research at some point. I haven't read much Japanese contemporary literature as I would like to, but when I read that this book would be about the poet Takashi Hiraide's 'slice of life' piece, I was quite intrigued. To begin with, you do not have to be a cat person to enjoy this book. I used to have a cat and I'm definitely more of a dog person, but I will have to say that this book definitely tugged at my heart strings. I'm not going to spoil the book, but so many moments, I teared up a bit and had to put the book down, because it reminded me of my late cat but also, made me really miss my dogs. You really feel the gap and emptiness when they are not around. This is not a typical animal-loss narrative though, and in fact, the scenes are quite heartwarming. The scenes when the writer was interacting with Chibi, the guest cat, made my heart swell (especially when they explored the forest together). I also loved reading about how his wife was with the cat as well (how she would leave food out for Chibi). Chibi was the neighbouring family's cat and she often visited them unannounced. She was not to be tamed and she came and went as she pleased. She was described as quite the peculiar cat, who was cautious in her movements but also would show up to show off her wounds/battle scars. Although, the interactions with the cat takes centre stage for this text, the author weaves together narratives about marriage, working as a writer, life in Japan, history and finding oneself. I found myself reminded of Haruki Murakami's writing while I read the book (he is one of my favourite authors ever) and it definitely reminded me of an online question website he made earlier this year (he is also a big fan of cats), and he spoke about how cats are meant to be enjoyed for the time they are around, but not meant to be tamed.. and I really felt that come through in the text. Chibi was linked to everything and she affected everything in the couple's life. She was linked to their life as writers, their life as homeowners and their life as neighbours. I don't know much about Takashi Hiraide, but after reading this, I definitely want to pick up more of his texts. This was a beautiful, heartwarming, heartbreaking and charming read. I think readers who love animals but also love the Japanese atmosphere will definitely enjoy this read.

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (5/5 stars)

Now available for purchase at:
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Disclaimer: A copy of this book was sent to me by IFOA for an honest review in exchange for my participation in the blog tour & attendance to IFOA. This does not affect my review. All opinions are my own. 


  1. I'm so interested to hear that you enjoyed this even as a *whisper* "dog person". I, too, found parts of his stories very emotional (even though his style is rather spare) and wondered if it was because I am predisposed to respond to a story about cats (I was even sympathetic to Chibi when she was the one doing the scratching!). He is really writing about so many universals here, it seems. So glad to hear that you enjoyed it and are eager to read more of his work!

  2. Thank you, Christine, very much, for taking part in the 2016 IFOA Blog Tour!