“A book that sits on a shelf is nothing but a bundle of paper. Unless it is opened, a book possessing great power or an epic story is a mere scrap of paper. But a book that has been cherished and loved, filled with human thoughts, has been endowed with a soul.”
Rintaro Natsuki, a reclusive high school student, inherits a bookstore when his grandfather passes away. Then a talking cat appears and demands his help in rescuing books from their misguided owners.
This was a short, whimsical read with a message that will appeal to all book lovers. There is a strong streak of magical realism – talking cats aside, Rintaro’s adventures take place in what feel like almost parallel realities, which I enjoyed but may not appeal to all readers.
This book revolves primarily around the idea that books – or at least literature – is getting less popular. To rescue books, Rintaro must negotiate with their owners and persuade them to change their ideas about them. In the process, there are a lot of meditations on the importance of books and why tough books are worth the struggle to read them.
Though Rintaro is the main focus of this novel, he is accompanied by his classmate Sayo on some of the adventures. They make a fun pair as they contrast greatly in character and their approaches to problems, but still work together well. I also liked the so-called ‘bosses of the labyrinth’ (so-called by me, at least!) and how they represented different ways to love books – though they had to unlearn their mistaken beliefs.
Unfortunately, the titular cat was the weak point of this novel. Tiger comes and goes out of nowhere, which is fine by me, but he also does not have much of a presence beyond serving as a guide down the passageway and giving out dire warnings. Also he is quite rude.
This was originally written in Japaense, and the translator is Louise Heal Kawai. I thought the writing was lovely, but something dialogue felt a little stilted – but it did not take away my enjoyment of the book.
Overall, an endearing read for book lovers of all stripes.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is my honest and voluntary review.