cover image The Cat Who Saved Books

The Cat Who Saved Books

Sosuke Natsukawa, trans. from Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai. HarperVia, $24.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-309572-4

In Natsukawa’s wispy, allegorical English-language debut, a shy teen and a talking cat go on a series of adventures to save books and reading for mankind. Rintaro, a high school student, has always been an introvert, with self-professed hikikomori (reclusive) tendencies that only intensify following the death of his beloved grandfather, the proprietor of a small secondhand bookstore, which he inherits. Rintaro is in the process of closing up the shop in order to move away and live with his aunt when he is interrupted by a bossy ginger tabby cat who tells him there are books that have been “imprisoned” and that Rintaro’s help is needed to “rescue” them. Together, and sometimes accompanied by Rintaro’s classmate Sayo, they visit a series of magical locations ruled by the villains who are threatening the world of books—among them a professor who reduces entire works of literature to one summary sentence, a public intellectual who treats books like “decorative objects,” and a publishing professional who only values books that sell. While the premise is charming, this doesn’t quite develop from one-note fable into fully realized novel. It’s hopeful and breezy, but the simplistic battle between good and evil won’t give readers much to dig into. (Dec.)