Review: Les Mémoires d'un chat, by Hiro Arikawa
A wonderful book that made me tear up way more than I thought a book about a cat would!
This is the story of Satoru, a man who lives in Tokyo and who adopts a street cat who gets hit by a car in front of his apartment building. Five years later, Satoru is doing the rounds of his friends to find someone who can adopt his cat, Nana, because he can no longer take care of him properly (the discovery of why Satoru has to give his cat away is the big emotional climax of the novel so I won't reveal it, and reader, I am not ashamed to say, I sobbed on the bus). The book alternates in point of view from Nana, the cat, who tells the story of his and Satoru's relationship and what he's picked up on in his human's personality, and omniscient narrator flashbacks to Satoru's childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, and the big emotional moments that marked him - the loss of his parents and his childhood cat as the big ones.
And this book was just so wonderful. It's touching and emotional without being saccharine, the moments of comedic relief are perfectly sprinkled throughout, and while the structure of the novel felt a bit formulaic it never felt box-ticking-y, and in a way I actually appreciated the way the novel followed the same timeline as Satoru's life, and every new friendship we discovered was taken in the context of the previous friendship and untouched by the next one.
It's a lovely, lovely novel about grief and loss, and how different people cope differently, and the power of the relationships we forge and treasure to help us carry through. It's also a lovely, lovely ode to how fiercely people love their pets (yes, even their cats), and while the premise is maybe not the most original (apparently in Japan there's quite a subgenre of literature told from the point of view of cats), I absolutely adored it.
There is an English translation available here, and I just highly recommend this book. It's heartwarming and wonderful and if you need a good cathartic cry, it's emotional enough to give that to you while still leaving behind a warm, fuzzy feeling. I loved this book so much I'm putting it in contention for my top of 2021 list even though the literary quality maybe doesn't quite match up to some of the other books on the list. But it's my blog so I'll do what I want.