Grandpa used to say it all the time: books have tremendous power. But what is that power really?
Natsuki Books was a tiny second-hand bookshop on the edge of town. Inside, towering shelves reached the ceiling, every one crammed full of wonderful books. Rintaro Natsuki loved this space that his grandfather had created. He spent many happy hours there, reading whatever he liked. It was the perfect refuge for a boy who tended to be something of a recluse.
After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. This odd couple will go on three magical adventures to save books from people who have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone . . .
My natural instinct is to stay away from Fantasy Fiction but this was about saving books and… well, I couldn’t.
Since the death of his Grandfather, Rintaro has taken up the hikikomori way of life. He has stopping going to school and spends his days moping around the bookshop. Sayo Yuzuki, his class president, drops to give him his homework and persuade him to come back to school. Rintaro sees no point when he will soon have to close down Natsuki Books and move in with his aunt, in a distant city.
One evening, as Rintaro is getting ready to lock up for the day, a tabby cat, who calls itself Tiger, appears before him. Acknowledging him as the new proprietor of Natsuki Books and recognising him for the booklover he is, the tabby insists on Rintaro’s help. They must make their way to the labyrinth to save books, failing which they will be trapped in it for ever.
Rintaro is skeptical of this talking tabby but the cat’s words resonate with him and he finds himself following the cat through a magical wall at the end of the bookshop. Every time Rintaro finds himself caught in a tricky situation, all thanks to Tiger, he recalls his grandfather’s profound words about the power of books. But can Rintaro summon the courage to do what is asked of him?
Described through a series of short adventures undertaken by Rintaro and Tiger, their story explores a reader’s relationship with books: Whether it is reading the same books over and over again or only once, whether it is skimming through books to add to your count or enjoying the beauty of its words, and whether it is choosing books everyone else is reading because they make more money or picking books that speak to you.
This is a deceptively simple story imparting great wisdom. Combined with the element of fantasy, it makes a heartfelt plea to liberate books from remaining merely a statement to becoming friends who inspire and support you.
Anyone who loves books and loves reading them (because, clearly, these are two separate passions) should read this. An outrageously wild, soul stirring experience, it will reinforce your love for books. If you happen to be the occasional, casual, or non-reader, it may well transform your relationship with books. Either way, this Japanese philosophical fantasy will speak to you.
The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa. Translated from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai. Due to be published on 16th September 2021 by Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan. This ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Pan Macmillan.
Book 41 of 2021.
Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟.
Available on Amazon*.
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