Book review: The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

We had heavy, icy rain today which provided me with the perfect excuse to sit in my local library and read. I chanced upon The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. When it was released many years ago, I didn’t pay it much attention. But recently, I have been attracted to more meditative fiction, and this book does not disappoint.

The writing is gentle, fluid with a clarity that draws you in.  The tale is very special, humanistic and brought a subtle perspective on being watchful for the tiny things in life before everything disappears as our lives ebb away.

Guest CatSet in the 1980s, in a climate of economic volatility, the book is about a couple who are regularly visited by a neighbourhood cat called Chibi. They form a bond with the little cat and the story skilfully explores how we humans try to connect with other animals that share our space, and the fragility of the space itself. The couple are affected by uncertainty – they never feel quite bonded themselves, and Chibi seems to be able to ground them temporarily. The book is accomplished in being able to make seemingly mundane living remarkable and powerfully emotive. And you do get a sense of how empty we can feel our lives are without noticing how other animals interact with the world with joy, curiosity and freedom.

Takashi Hiraide is a poet and has won many awards. He does manage to convey a sense of life in Tokyo, and you do get a feel for the relations that form between neighbours and what the culture of the area is like. However, the tale has a universal quality to it.  Highly recommended. It isn’t a story that I will forget readily as it evoked many feelings in me as I was reading it. As a bonus, if you are someone who enjoys writing, this book is good for learning about how to structure a tale and pause at just the right moments. Even though the book is largely meditative, there are many tense moments that brought everything to life.


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