Happy 2024! In among all the holiday festivities, I hope you had time to read a good book or two. I did. I read and listened to several novels, including The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa, just in time to participate in Boswell Book Company‘s December Books and Beer Book Club.
For my January Writer’s Book Club, I’d planned on reviewing Boswell’s November selection, Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest, but the main character was so annoying that I couldn’t finish it.
So, for this month, it’s The Cat Who Saved Books. At only 198 pages, this is a quick read, even for slow readers like me. Teenager Rintaro Natsuki is a hikikomori—a societal recluse—who prefers working in his grandfather’s bookstore to going to school.
When his grandfather passes away, Rintaro faces having to sell the bookstore and move in with an aunt he barely knows. Along comes a talking cat who enlists Rintaro’s help to save books.
What I liked about The Cat Who Saved Books
I was sympathetic to the reclusive Rintaro and loved the bookstore setting. The cat, of course, had attitude. I thought all the characters were well-developed and easily relatable. As a writer, I sympathized with Rintaro’s pain when he discovered people who used books only to showcase them, abridge them, or mass-produce books that had no soul. I also liked certain quotes from the book.
For instance, Rintaro says this about his grandfather’s death, “Grandpa, this is messed up.” My mother passed away last year, and that’s exactly how I feel.
I also liked the grandfather’s mantra, “Books have tremendous power.” And, Rintaro’s realization, “Empathy—that’s the power of books.”
Issues I had with the book
On page 3, we learn that Rintaro’s parents split when he was a baby, and his mother passed away when he started primary school. Later, when Rintaro’s grandfather dies, the narrator says this is the first time Rintaro has to deal with death. This is something an editor should have caught.
Also, the writing was stilted at times. I chalked it up to the translation.
I wanted more (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing)
I wanted more detailed settings and more of a struggle for Rintaro when he came head-to-head with those who were destroying books. But this didn’t bother me too much, as it made the book feel like a parable, which I liked.
How this has affected my writing
For ten years or more, I’ve had a story idea about a reclusive woman and wondered how I could make that interesting. There are no talking cats in my story, but, much like Rintaro and the bookstore, my character battles foes without leaving her apartment. Now, I believe that can work.
The Books and Beer Bookstore members each ranked this book. A couple gave it three stars, wishing it was more developed; several gave it 3.5 stars for the same reason, and others, like me, gave it four stars because it made us consider things we hadn’t considered before.
The Cat Who Saved Books gets 👍🏻 👍🏻 👍🏻 👍🏻 stars for well-developed characters in an enchanting tale.
Thanks so much to my dear friend and fellow writer, Silvia Acevedo, for suggesting we join Boswell Book Company’s Book Club. She even gave me this terrific journal to keep track of our books!
Next month’s Writer’s Book Club
Boswell’s February Books and Beer selection is Starter Villain by John Scazli — yep, more cats. I’ll review this novel for next month’s Writer’s Book Club.
Despite this being another cat-related story (I’m a dog person), I’m enjoying the tongue-in-cheek, snarky writing. I like the main character (a man, not a cat) who’s inherited his estranged uncle’s supervillain lair.
Order your copies of The Devil Particle and The Vessel today!
“[T]here are clear parallels with the Hunger Games trilogy, with the idea of a competition for young adults in a near future dystopia. The stakes are just as high, with characters having to give so much physically for a coveted spot . . . ” – 2024 CINEMATIC BOOK COMPETITION