The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa | Book Review

“A book that sits on a shelf is nothing but a bundle of paper. Unless it is opened, a book possessing great power or an epic story is a mere scrap of paper. But a book that has been cherished and loved, filled with human thoughts, has been endowed with a soul.”

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 . . .

41. The Cat Who Saved Books

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*.

About Photo: Rintaro’s Grandpa’s favourite flower was Clematis with its rich blue colour.
This is an origami version of the clematis flower and the flower pot – both made with 80gsm paper.

41. The Cat Who Saved Books

About the Author: Sosuke Natsukawa is a doctor in Nagano, Japan. His first book Kamisama No Karute (‘God’s Medical Records’) won the Shogakukan Fiction Prize and received second prize at the Japan Bookseller Awards. It sold over 1.5 million copies and was adapted into a film in Japan.
About the Translator: Louise Heal Kawai has been a Japanese-English literary translator since 2006. Her first publication was Shoko Tendo’s bestselling autobiography Yakuza Moon. She has gone on to translate a large number of crime fiction titles, including Seishi Yokomizo’s The Honjin Murders, and works by Soji Shimada and Seicho Matsumoto. Her literary translations include Ms Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami, and Hideo Yokoyama’s Seventeen, which was a finalist in the 2018 Believer Book Awards, and longlisted for the 2019 Best Translated Book Award. Louise comes from Manchester in the UK, and currently resides in Yokohama.
*Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link which means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

3 thoughts on “The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa | Book Review

  1. Pingback: 2021 and Changing Plans | #BrunchBookChallenge – Aquamarine Flavours

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