Book Review: The Travelling Cat Chronicles

‘The Travelling Cat Chronicles’ tells the story of Satoru, a young man and a cat, named ‘Nana’. She was a stray cat who chose Satoru as her ‘pet owner’. Both are going on a trip through Japan by car. They visit several childhood friends of Satoru. In the beginning we get to know Sosuke, a school buddy and read about their youth, in the following chapters about Yoshimie, Sugi and Chikako and last about Noriko, his aunt.

With each visit we learn about another exciting part of Satoru’s life-story, told in flashbacks or through conversations.

The novel plays in present times, but the time setting is irrelevant to the story. It could have happened in the last century or even before.

The overall theme of the ‘Travelling Cat Chronicles’ is friendship and love. The message is: Respect all creatures on earth. Think about your pet as a friend.

Hiro Arikawa (有川 浩) was born in Japan in 1972. She is a female Japanese author of light novels, and she has written some Japanese Young Adults novels. ‘The Travelling Cat Chronicles’ has been translated into about eight languages. Her novel was also made into a movie in 2018 (See International Movie Database).

The story is narrated by an omniscient narrator and partly from the point of view of the cat Nana in the first-person. The narration of the cat is subjective, in part opinionated, and she is making mostly comments about human behavior. She is also lecturing about how to communicate with a cat correctly. The narration of the overall story is combined with episodes narrated by Nana in a naïve, sometimes child-like writing style.

The author uses the point of view of a cat. Natsume Sôseki’s famous novel ‘I am a Cat’ written in 1905 is her role model. She indicates that with her introduction, which is a citation of ‘I am a Cat’ as follows: “I am a Cat. As yet, I have no name.” Arikawa continues: “There is a famous cat in our country who once made this very statement.”

Having read and admired Natsume Sôseki’s classic tale ‘I am a Cat’ I had high expectations of ‘The Travelling Cat Chronicles’. I think the author set her bar high in choosing the first sentence, but maybe she just wanted to make a joke. I mean, it is difficult to compete with a classic of that high rank.

What I like about the book is the overall message to respect cats and every animal on the planet and respect your next one. Nana even is telling you her dos and don’ts of how to communicate with her. So, a good side effect of the novel is that you learn using cat language. And as a cat-lover that was the funniest part for me.

There is nothing to dislike about the novel. I mean, it is very friendly. Love and friendship, taking care of each other, what can be wrong about that.

Normally I do not read Young Adult fiction anymore because I am not in her typical target audience. I recommend the book to all readers who like to read about cats, friendship and who like the YA genre. It is an interesting bestselling Japanese book.

Reviewed title:
有川浩: 旅猫リポート. Arikawa Hiro: Tabineko ripôto. Kodansha 2015.
Hiro Arikawa: The Travelling Cat Chronicles. Translated by Philip Gabriel.
Berkeley 2018 (Cover)