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Old 12-12-2018, 12:47 PM   #1
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The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

'Sometimes you have to leave behind everything you know to find the place you truly belong...

Nana the cat is on a road trip. He is not sure where he's going or why, but it means that he gets to sit in the front seat of a silver van with his beloved owner, Satoru. Side by side, they cruise around Japan through the changing seasons, visiting Satoru's old friends. He meets Yoshimine, the brusque and unsentimental farmer for whom cats are just ratters; Sugi and Chikako, the warm-hearted couple who run a pet-friendly B&B; and Kosuke, the mournful husband whose cat-loving wife has just left him. There's even a very special dog who forces Nana to reassess his disdain for the canine species.

But what is the purpose of this road trip? And why is everyone so interested in Nana? Nana does not know and Satoru won't say. But when Nana finally works it out, his small heart will break...'


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We're trying out discussion sections as an encouragement to keep those reading on a more similar timeline and perhaps foster more discussion. These are only softly recommended however and not required at all. Anyone can discuss any part or aspect of the selection at any time.

Recommended discussion timeframe starts for approximately 256 pages divided into four quarters-

The first quarter, pages 1-64: immediately

The second quarter, pages 65-128: Wednesday the 19th of December

The third quarter, pages 129-192: Wednesday the 26th of December

The fourth quarter, pages 193-256: Wednesday the 2nd of January


This is the MR Literary Club selection for December 2018. Everyone is welcome so feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time; the more the merrier!


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Old 01-05-2019, 01:19 AM   #2
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Is anyone ready to discuss this book? I really enjoyed it and am so thankful it was nominated. I was waiting for the 2nd because it was difficult to discuss without spoilers for the ending. I thought it definitely fulfilled the category topic of love in so many ways. I have to admit that the ending made me cry (that’s rare for me with a book) even if I thought it was a bit over done sentimentally at the end. Although I think it’s no secret from my avatar that I’m a cat person which probably heightened my emotional response. I plan to post more thoughts over the weekend. Also I learned a lot about Japanese geography and culture (such as the coming of age celebration at 20) which I found interesting.
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Old 01-05-2019, 01:54 AM   #3
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Also, oshogatsu omedetou! That’s what one of my best friends from university who is Japanese American told me to say Happy New Year! I thought this blog post was interesting. It sounds like a wonderful experience.
http://rrzbeginnersmind.blogspot.com...-omedetoo.html
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Old 01-05-2019, 05:17 PM   #4
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This was the second time that I had read the book, the first a year or so ago when it was first published in English.

We are also cat people here, with three of them, a Persian, a British Blue and a getting old highly strung little tortoiseshell (hence the term "naughty torty" ), so that was an attraction to the book. Even so it was a bit of a worry contemplating a talking cat, but it turns out that the cat's place is nothing like the animal characters in Gallico's Thomasina or Burnford's The Incredible Journey, for example. I found that the cat appeared to me to be useful as the companion on all the journeys who did not impose the complications and confusions of having another human fill that role while providing some sort of occasional "commentary".

I also found the use of the cat interesting in that they are regarded as lucky in Japanese culture (so I am told) yet was Satoru lucky? - I don't know but I think in some way he was as he was able to accept his journeys to his ultimate fate, that which we don't know for sure until late in the book, with calm and goodwill with his cat companion.

The first half or so of the book seemed slow moving to me but I wonder if this was on purpose or maybe a typical Japanese literary device (I have no idea on that?). I have never been to Japan but one year my wife and I mixed quite a lot with the crew of a Japanese owned superyacht whose skipper was European. I recall him often complaining how getting into even just a packet of biscuits, or similar, involved having to get through several layers of packaging - I have also seen this care in Japanese packaging and presentation.

So I have wondered if in the book each of the journeys is another layer of "packaging" each of which when unraveled reveals a little more of the ultimate destination of the story. Then the final journey through the countryside being the final layer of the "packaging" that exposes us to the end story. Likely a bit of a flight of imagination on my part?
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Old 01-05-2019, 05:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
Also, oshogatsu omedetou! That’s what one of my best friends from university who is Japanese American told me to say Happy New Year! I thought this blog post was interesting. It sounds like a wonderful experience.
http://rrzbeginnersmind.blogspot.com...-omedetoo.html
An interesting link . Thanks.

I always like Joanna Lumley's TV travel programs and a year or two back she did one on Japan which I felt she did very sympathetically (as I feel she always does) and is worth watching, if available; in my opinion. I see it is being streamed here by one of our providers so I am reminded to watch it again (wife and I are currently getting through and enjoying her recent Silk Road Adventure).

Last edited by AnotherCat; 01-05-2019 at 05:34 PM. Reason: too corrected to two
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Old 01-05-2019, 07:33 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by AnotherCat View Post
I also found the use of the cat interesting in that they are regarded as lucky in Japanese culture (so I am told) yet was Satoru lucky? - I don't know but I think in some way he was as he was able to accept his journeys to his ultimate fate, that which we don't know for sure until late in the book, with calm and goodwill with his cat companion.
Your question reminded me of a conversation with Sugi who asks Satoru, "How can you be a good person when you've been so unlucky?"
Quote:
“I don’t know if I’m a good person or not. But either way, I wasn’t unlucky.” (Satoru)
“What are you talking about? Are you denying that life’s treated you unfairly, and trying to make me feel bad by not admitting it?” (Sugi)
“I don’t know what you mean. The wine must have gone to your head.” (Satoru)
(Kindle Locations 1665-1668)
I believe that Satoru genuinely thought that he was not unlucky in life. Each obstacle in his life's journey introduced him to new friends and a new set of experiences that he shared with his friends (such as swimming, gardening or working together in the orchards). It enriched him. I loved this statement in the epilogue after his friends meet with his Aunt Noriko and share stories.
Quote:
You know something, Satoru? After you passed away, the people who miss you all became connected. (Kindle Locations 2787-2788)
Their friendship with one individual and love for him expanded into a larger network, and I thought that was beautiful. It was another example of an unfair & unlucky event in life turning into a positive outcome.

Here is a short article on cats in Japanese culture and history.
https://www.kcpinternational.com/201...e-and-history/
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Old 01-05-2019, 08:05 PM   #7
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Your statements about luck in the Japanese culture also reminded me how once in celebration of the New Year my friend gifted our circle of friends with Japanese Daruma dolls like the one in this Wikipedia article. It's made me wonder if the concept of resilience is especially valued in Japanese culture.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okiagari-koboshi

The doll came with the following explanation which I kept to remember the meaning:
Quote:
Daruma has a design that is rich in symbolism and is regarded more as a talisman of good luck to the Japanese. Daruma dolls are seen as a symbol of perseverance and good luck, making them a popular gift of encouragement. In English, this roly-poly style is called a "tumbler doll," and in Japanese it is called "okiagari" meaning to get up (oki) and arise (agar). This characteristic has come to symbolize the ability to have success, overcome adversity, and recover from misfortune.
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Old 01-05-2019, 08:09 PM   #8
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And a now old Nana, knowing the time for his own journey is close, in the field dreaming that he is with Satori:

Hey, it’s been a while. You look good.
I rub my small cheeks against Satoru’s arms.
All thanks to you. How about you, Nana?
I’m good – all thanks to you.

(Epilogue)
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Old 01-05-2019, 08:30 PM   #9
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Satoru saved Nana, and in reciprocity Nana helped save Satoru and was his faithful companion on his final journey. There was true love shown in both directions between human and pet.

One of the things I liked about this book was how it flipped our perspective on human-animal relationships. The cat voice wasn't annoying. I thought it was pretty close to how I imagine cats would speak in human language, and the author represented the eccentricities in cat personalities very well. Often we think about our animals and their shortened lifespans compared to humans and how we feel when they pass on. This book had the animal outliving his human and showed us the animal's perspective and reaction to it.

I loved the section in Chapter 4, "How Noriko Learned to Love," where Nana lists all of his cherished memories. It brought on the tears for me because it was so full of emotion and love and warmth. It starts out with the following statement:
Quote:
Strays, by definition, have been abandoned or left behind, but Satoru rescued me when I broke my leg. He made me the happiest cat on earth. I’ll always remember those five years we had together. And I’ll forever go by the name Nana, the name that— let’s face it— is pretty unusual for a male cat. (Kindle Locations 2537-2540)
Then it ends with:
Quote:
I would remember these for the rest of my life. And Kosuke, and Yoshimine, and Sugi and Chikako. And above all, the one who brought up Satoru and made it possible for us to meet— Noriko. Could anyone be happier than this? (Kindle Locations 2550-2552)
I also liked how even Saturo and Noriko become friends despite their rocky start together and Noriko not being a cat person.
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