books review

REVIEW: I Am a Cat

May 22, 2011Saskia C.

I've been wanting to write this review for ages, but I never got to it. So here it is, at last.
I got intrigued by 'I Am a Cat' when I saw it in the English bookstore in Brussels. A friend of mine happened to own it, and she was as kind as to lend it to me. It took me a while to start reading, because of some mandatory books for my classes, but when I finally got to it, I finished it in less than a week (it's a trilogy of more than 600 pages).

'I Am a Cat' is a tradional Japanese story by Soseki Natsume, about a stray cat without a name, who gets to 'move in' with a fairly regular Japanese family. There he observes humans and tells the reader what he sees and hears. This way these people (and in fact all of humanity) are subtly mocked.
I immediately liked the concept from the moment I started reading. This cat's intelligent view on the world is interesting and by times very funny to read. The book also gives an insight in Japanese culture, since it is situated in a traditional Japanese family during the 19th century. The writing style does take some getting used to, since it's translated from Japanese and the Eastern way of putting things is often quite different and might feel odd for a Western person.
It is definitely not a book for people who only like thrilling novels with lots of action. Since 'I Am a Cat' basically tells the daily life of a cat and what he perceives, there's no real plot, the book is more or less a series of anecdotes. For instance, sometimes a ridiculous (and I admit, slightly boring) conversation between humans keeps going for dozens of pages.
The thing I like the most about 'I am a Cat' is the way (some) humans' absurdity, whims and stupidity are satirized very subtly. The cat simply tells us how humans in his surroundings act and gives us his personal opinion and thoughts. When (even) a cat is smarter than those people in this house, how much is humanity still worth?
In short, I'd definitely recommend 'I Am a Cat' to anyone who likes Japanese culture, mild satires and/or cats and is not afraid of some self-mockery. It's a very relaxing book in general, it has some very interesting and funny scenes and does not require you to think too much (which is not a bad thing in this case). It's quite cheerful, even though there's some sad scenes too, so it's perfect if you need a fairly simple and amusing book to relax with after a busy day.

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1 comments

  1. Sounds good, I'm not very much into Japanese culture, but the 19th century interests me. I think I'll read it if I find it.

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