Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Title: The Guest Cat
Author: Takashi Hiraide
Where to buy: The Guest Cat
Summary: 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 colour. (Source: Goodreads)
Content Warnings: death, blood.
What I liked…
The central character, Chibi, is the focus of the novella, and the best thing about that, is that Chibi is an adorable, adventurous cat! Takashi Hiraide creates a wonderful little personality in Chibi, whose view of the world inspires interest in a married couple. The couple, in question, live rather dull lives until they meet little Chibi.
“For me, Chibi is a friend with whom I share an understanding, and who just happens to have taken on the form of a cat.” (Chapter 8, p.36)
The story is told from the husband’s perspective, but I particularly liked this poignant comment from his wife who is attached to Chibi. As a cat owner, I identified with this sentiment. Cats or any pets are wonderful presences in our lives, and often we take them granted. The couple’s relationship with Chibi is significant as the cat does not belong to them, but they have a great fondness for Chibi and vice versa.
I also enjoyed the way Hiraide described Chibi playing because I often wonder what goes through my cat’s head when she sees something to pounce on. Do cats see the world differently to us? I think that is the question Hiraide poses to the reader.
Suddenly climbing a tree she would transform herself into lightning. Normally, lightning travels down from the sky, but Chibi ran up.” (Chapter 15, p.68)
There are quite a few references to lightning throughout the novella. I loved this metaphor as it conveyed Chibi’s kittenish personality and energy. Moreover, the latter sentence conveys the idea that Chibi is a supernatural being, that she exists between worlds. This is further confirmed in the story as the cat drifts between two households, the couple and the actual owners.
What I disliked…
There is a lot of information in the book that I was not expecting. I expected a poignant story about a couple’s friendship with a cat, not external historical details which did not impact the narrative in any way.
Why did I read it?
I rarely read books about animals, so I thought I should change it up. I was also intrigued by the title because cats.
Does the author have other works?
While this is Hiraide’s only novella, he has written poetry collections, For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut and Postcards to Donald Evans.
If you like descriptive, poetic short stories about lovely little cats, then this is for you.
– Melissa Jennings