Never judge a book by its cover – the saying goes – though I did just that.

I was browsing my local discounted book store when my eye caught a beautiful illustration of a cat. My eye then moved to the title. It had the word “cat” in it – “The Travelling Cat Chronicles” to be more specific – by Japanese author Hiro Arikawa. I picked up the hardcover book with its grey ribbon book mark. I knew this was a book a wanted to read, though I decided to read the back cover to confirm.

The story is told in a third person narration and also from the perspective of Nana the cat who embarks on a journey with his owner Sartoru. The pair visit three different people from Sartoru’s past and just as Sartoru did all those years ago, Nana too leaves a mark on the lives of these people. The duo travel in a silver van through different seasons and landscapes of Japan.

For any cat lover who has wondered what their cat thinks about- Nana’s sharp wit yet heart of gold is how we imagine our cats would be if they could speak. I have personally noted that my cats have not ever seen the sea- Sartoru takes Nana to the ocean and while he is excited to see the sea he is frightened of the huge thunderous crashing waves. After reading this, I now believe I know what my cats would think if they saw the ocean and I feel it would be traumatic for them. Nana also says that the vet is the “worst place” for him and if you’re an animal owner- you somehow know this to be true. This is how the writing style of Arikawa affects you, it’s slightly strange but utterly relatable. As they continue on their journey we learn about the quietly tragic life of Sarturo and the people he encountered through youth and young adulthood. These are stories of friendship, family, loyalty and loss. However the most beautiful relationship is, of course, that of Nana and Sarturo. The fierce loyalty of the once stray Nana to his owner, the way that Sarturo feeds Nana boiled chicken. It is the story of the indescribable relationship of human and feline. It is a story of intense love shot through with the slightly acerbic voice of the beloved cat. There are moments that are tenderly heart breaking but also those that describe the vivid beauty of Japan beyond cherry blossoms.

While this book will absolutely appeal to cat lovers but also to anyone who enjoys stories of friendship. Don’t be put off by the narration of Nana – it doesn’t have surreal feelings, and the whole cat speaking aspect seems uncannily normal though interesting that this is the second talking cat I’ve encountered in Japanese literature.

If you love all things feline- you must read this book.


Photo featuring author’s cat