THE PLOT: ‘She and Her Cat’ by Makoto Shinkai and Naruki Nagakawa (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori) is a short novel set in Tokyo. In a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city, local cats weave their way between the homes. The cats connect five different women and help them with their lives. From a gifted artist who can’t settle at university to a manga fan struggling with the death of her friend and an older woman living alone, each characters’ woes are softened by the gentle magic of feline companionship.
RATING: This is a sweet, tender book with a core message about friendship and human connection. It almost reads like interconnected short stories as each character and cat pairing is distinct, with short chapters for every couple introduced by a beautiful graphic and description of the season. I managed to read this book in one sitting, which allowed me to immerse myself in the tone and magic of this story. With subtle themes about depression, neurodiversity and being an outsider, it’s easy to read but has hidden depths.
GOOD BITS: Alternating the narrator between the women and their cats worked well, and the author cleverly manages to evoke different narrative voices by using a mix of first and third person. The writing was simple yet effective and I enjoyed that it wasn’t bogged down with too much description. The use of clear, short sentences with some moments of insightful description heightened the impact of the book’s message. My favourite woman/cat pairing was Reina and Mimi as I felt they were both outsiders and they probably had the most plot points/biggest emotional journeys.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Most of the women had a manic-pixie-dream-girl element that made me a little frustrated. They all seemed thin, kind and beautiful, so there wasn’t much realism or rawness to their characterization. Even the older woman was a caregiver “grandmother” type of character with little wants or needs for herself. I understand this is a very deliberate choice by the author for this type of quiet, sweet story, but it left the female characters feeling a tad one-dimensional.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for a pleasant story that you can read quickly. Although I haven’t read it, I imagine it would appeal to lovers of ‘The Travelling Cat Chronicles’ by Hiro Arikawa. If you’re a cat-lover and book-lover, then pick this up asap.
Thank you to Doubleday for my #gifted copy. This Japanese best seller is now available to buy in the UK.