Member Reviews

There’s a sparse and young, almost delicate sense to Genki Kawamura’s writing that cheered me up no end even though this was a book about death. The lightness to life and what we hold too close is really what this book is about. Kawamura is 39 and is now the author of three books; If Cats Disappeared from the World is his first one and has sold over a million copies.

This is the second Japanese book I’ve read this year about cats, both translated from Japanese by Eric Selland, and they both touch on social isolation and the love we give.

Our narrator has only days to live and is tempted by the devil in giving up more and more, not only from his life but from everyone’s, for one more day each time. Through his daily sacrifices and before we get to his cat Cabbage, we find out about his relationship with his family and what has led to him being alone.

It’s a special and simple tale, which opens up a path to joy more than anything. Even when the descriptions felt rather young I couldn’t help but read on. The facts seem simple:

by making something disappear from the world, I could live for one more day. Let’s see now, that would be thirty items a month, 365 per year.

But in reality, the things we choose sometimes mean more than we think and the consequences of losing even our most seemingly trivial items (although the devil is specific in what he wants, he doesn’t ask for trinkets) are far-reaching.

This is worth a read.

If Cats Disappeared from the World is available now.

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Delightfully amusing and poignant in the same vein. A dying man makes deals with the Devil - who appears to him in constantly changing Hawaiian T-shirts -for extra days of life
The deal is, that for an extra day of life something has to disappear from the world. Clocks, ‘phones. Could this be the fate of cats!!!?
I loved the humour that ran through the story and felt the sadness of the character’s estrangement from his father. Could the Devil’s deals, in some way, help to heal this rift?
A most unusual book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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A young man is visited by the Devil after finding out he only has a few days to live. The Devil bargains with him that he can give up one thing a day in extra for an extra day of life. Plenty of dark humour to be found here along with many life affirming questions.

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Thank you to Netgalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

The narrator finds he is dying and the devil offers a deal to get rid of one thing from the world entirely for each extra day of life. Would you get rid of the things that the devil proposes?
I loved this book, it's so beautiful and thought provoking. I'm a big fan of Japanese literature and this had all my favourite elements: a cat with a starring role, little details that make you think and a connection to wider society and the world.

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An original title that promises much…

The story of this short novel is a very simple one. On the very first page, a young man of thirty receives the awful news from his doctor that he has cancer and now has only a week left to live. In shock he returns home and finds himself making a pact with the devil, who appears to him in human form, a pact which tells him if he removes one thing from his life, he will be given an extra day to live.

So, one by one he gives up the objects demanded of him - mobile phones, films, clocks - until he is finally asked to give up cats and this is one bargain too far.

The narrative reveals a lonely man at odds with the world. He works as a postman because of his fondness of stamps, but outside work his life has been something of a failure. After his mother dies and he becomes estranged from his father, he is left with one love in his life, his cat Cabbage.

He seems unable to sustain relationships with people. His girlfriend and he conducted their love affair over a telephone, but it is doomed to failure when they actually go away together.

Each object he now gives up has him dealing with different aspects of his past and searching for closure. It also raises a more general question of what we really need in modern life. Are we humans surrounded with too much clutter and unnecessary objects?

This very unusual book is part journal, part memoir and part a conversation with himself, as narrator. At times it is funny, at other times sad. Occasionally it becomes almost irritating, given the sheer hopelessness of his situation.

I get the feeling that the Japanese sense of humour may have lost something in translation, but for all that, this rather strange little book is well worth reading right through to the moving end.


Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.

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It seems that cats, like Alphaville, are big in Japan - and I really enjoy the way that Japanese writers use these animals to explore some big issues. In this book we have a narrator whose life is turned upside-down when he is given the news that he has, at most, months to live. He returns home to try to make sense of these news in the company of his beloved pet, a cat named Cabbage, but is startled to find himself face to face with the devil. The devil, a wise cracking, Hawaiian shirt-wearing character makes him an offer - he can have one more day of life in exchange for making an item disappear from the world. Aloha won't allow him to choose anything too petty so we end up seeing the end of phones, clocks and films: each time our narrator is allowed to decide between these objects and a day of life. These decisions aren't necessarily easy - like most people these days he relies heavily on his mobile and has a busy life governed by timetables - but the loss of cinema hits him very hard as he and his closest friends are real film buffs. The fourth day is offered to him in exchange for the existence of cats and this becomes the hardest decision of all to make.

This book is, in turn, amusing and thought-provoking. It leads you to consider, as the narrator does, the role your mobile phone plays in your life - both a way of communicating with the world and of separating yourself from it - and your attitude to time. More importantly than any of this, however, is the way the narrator re-examines his relationships with people in his life: his ex-lover, his mother, who died a few years previously, and his father who he hasn't seen since her death. The only slight oddness for me was hearing him reflect on his life - he is just 30 and keeps referring to this. Of course, he knows he is about to die so to his mind he may as well be 80 but it did jar slightly. My fault, I'm sure. All in all, an interesting addition to the list of books I have read about cats, death and Japan.

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This is the tale of what happens when our protagonist is told he is about to die. It’s an engaging read but didn’t set my world on fire.

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This book was very weird, but not in a bad way. The concept alone is very quirky and the way that Kawamura describe death was also strange, but very interesting. There was definitely a lot of symbolism to find there. In general, the book is extremely philosophical, looking at various things that seem like they don't matter that much but make the world very different when they are missing from it.

The cat, Cabbage. Was definitely the best part. I don't want to give anything away, but we had a real glimpse at his personality and the way he saw the world. And having a cat called Cabbage was always going to be a way into my heart. Cabbage and Lettuce are beautiful creatures and the world would definitely not be as good without them!

As someone who reads a fair amount of Japanese literature, I was able to put up with some of the style differences, but if this is the first book that you're reading that was originally written in Japanese, you may find it off-putting. The flashbacks flow on from the text, instead of being separated into a separate scene and the narrator tends to go off on tangents a lot before casually rejoining the scene. Also, some of the translators choices felt a bit off to me, especially in case of thinking something rather than speaking it. In Japanese thoughts are written very much like speech, with "I thought" coming after the thing that is being thought. If felt to me like much of these sentences were fairly directly translated, meaning that you think that the character is saying something aloud when it's actually only thought. This was very off-putting when it happened.

Overall though, it was an interesting concept and a fun story.

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'If Cats Disappeared from the World' makes the reader think, what would I do in these circumstances. If death is imminent would I make a deal with the devil? What would I give up so I could live longer? Do I believe in the devil?

The main protagonist is a postman in Japan, only thirty with a diagnosis that makes death Imminent, Does he see'the devil? Or is this perhaps a delusional state caused by his illness. You decide, but the protagonist believes what he sees is real and that by giving up something important to him up he can cheat death of another day.

The saying is 'you only regret the things you don't do'. The postman's consideration of what to banish from the world makes him look at his past life choices. He revisits his first love, his relationship with his dead mother and his estrangement from his still living father. The postman realises bartering his life for another living creature's life is not as easy as losing things he considers essential.

A poignant, quirky tale, which on the surface is humorous and self-depreciating but dig a little deeper and you find out what our postman truly values in life. The author questions whether all the material things we consider vital are making us forget that it is other humans and living creature that enrich our lives and need protecting.

I received a copy of this book from Pan McMillan - Picador via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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I was looking forward to reading If Cats Disappeared From The World but, sadly I was disappointed. I didn’t enjoy the style of writing and found the dialogue between characters irritating. The concept of the story was intriguing hence why I requested it but I wouldn’t recommend it even though it’s a short read.

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Couldn't finish this one.
Just too odd with a really jarring "voice" from the narrator. The premise of making a deal for another day isn't clear (I assumed it was just for one additional day originally) and then also was amazed the character didn't understand that they wouldn't get to choose what was banished from the world in exchange for their extra day.
Very strange.

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This is a cute, short and interesting book.

The protagonist learns he is going to die, probably soon. So obviously the devil turns up and tells him he has exactly one day to live. But there is a get-out clause - he can live for another day if he gets rid of something from the world.

There are a few chapters where the devil chooses different items to get rid of from the world, and the protagonist lives a day without this item and considers what effect it has had on his life.

I literally read this book in a couple of hours, so it's pretty short. It's well written, quite lighthearted and a little philosophical. In short I think this can be viewed in a couple of different ways - either very deep, or just a bit of fun.

I did enjoy reading this but I don't think it will have any lasting impact on me. It's a nice choice for a lazy day if you're at a loose end.

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"The fact is, people tend to be surprisingly calm when they hear news like this. When I found out, the first thing that occurred to me was that I was only one stamp away from getting a free massage on my loyalty card, and I shouldn’t have bothered buying so much toilet paper and detergent. It was the little things which came to mind."

Our protagonist is an unnamed postman who makes a deal with the devil after being diagnosed with a stage four brain tumour. An extra day of life will be granted to him if he agrees to give up something of the devils choosing. Each chapter – each day of the week – is titled ‘If ___ Disappeared from the World’, and I enjoyed this structure. It was neat and tidy and lead me through the story with ease. Each piece explores what the devil has offered to make vanish, and how the postman’s past links to the chosen object/thing.

"And so my seven-day odyssey had begun."

Upon finishing the book, two bold points stood out to me:

1.) I felt it to be an allegory for the postman’s tumour. That perhaps his mind was deteriorating, and with it his perception of reality. As the protagonist explores his memories it quickly becomes apparent that the devil may not be real (but instead a piece of the tumour). I think the story, and its many profundities, can be read in a multitude of different ways, but I enjoyed imagining it like this. The protagonist himself wonders if the things he offers are really disappearing from the world. There was a lovely section when the devil talks about the 107 other people he presented this same deal to … and that the things they let go would barely be noticed by the world, because they weren’t magically disappearing, but instead were being forgotten about. Be they a favourite coffee cup or pair of socks, they would just go by unnoticed ‘like pebbles on the roadside’. For me, this uprooted the story from its potential fantastical grounding and lifted it into a more realistic one. Fantasy with its heels together. This is something I very much enjoy.

2.) I believed the postman to be an unreliable narrator. Some might tuck their chairs closer to their screen for that, others might be ready to close this review altogether … He would say key things like ‘… Well, no, that’s a lie. That’s not quite how it happened.’ And his recollections were always swimming with uncertainty – but, interestingly, I ended up quite liking this. I have often felt uncomfortable when reading unreliable narrators and protagonists, but this one’s unreliability was rooted in realism. That is what settled it, for me. It has an innocence about it and, above all, is true to how we all remember events in our past. I think his occasional unreliability gave the story some extra gravitas, and I welcomed it.

"I couldn’t handle this guy anymore."

There is a qualm I had very early on, but it’s one that I managed to get used to. The dialogue between the postman and the devil felt a little unbelievable to me, and as quite a large portion of the book is made up of it, this was a worry. But it was odd, because the protagonist’s voice was brilliant – and I felt his internal voice read far more believably than his dialogue in these sections. It was engaging, and the voice was clear. So, despite my distaste for the devil’s speech, I did really like the overall voice and narration – and I think that’s what saved this gripe from becoming a problem. The narrator himself is casual and quick, and I found the chatty air of his speech to be quite evocative. I just felt there was a lot of ping-ponging when the devil got involved. And, in truth, often sounded corny and unbelievable.

"I suppose the size of this town was just right for us then."

Whilst I’m on the dialogue, the sections between the protagonist and his ex-girlfriend were fantastic. For example, I loved the matter-of-fact way that she would talk about her ex-boyfriend’s imminent death: ‘Who’ll take care of him when you die?’ When she asked about his mother’s cat Cabbage. ‘If you can’t find anyone,’ she said, ‘let me know.’ Her character was strong and unique. In fact, they all were – each character had their own distinct voice or presence, and I enjoyed their company for the most part. It was just Aloha, the devil, that didn’t sit well with me.

"There are so many cruel things in the world, but there are also just as many beautiful things."

One of my favourite things about this book, unsurprisingly, are its images. There were some truly beautiful settings peppered throughout, and despite their occasional modesty, they were incredibly visceral. I could almost see it as a movie as I was reading it, and it was only after finishing the book that I realised it had already been made into one, long ago – which has now been penned into my to-be-watched list. For such a small book, it held so many wonderful quotes, and I just hope they have survived the transition into film – some I even jotted down. Lines like, What do you want meaning for? Life is desire, not meaning. Life is a beautiful, magnificent thing, even to a jellyfish, were just gorgeous. But my favourite, I think, would have to be, That smile became a small wound that opened somewhere in the back of my brain … Many a journal page has been dedicated to the jewel-like quotes I’ve caught from this little book.

Overall, an intriguing and, in the end, heartfelt story. I really did enjoy my time with it. If you enjoyed The Guest Cat, I would recommend this book to you – and if you’ve yet to read either, I hold them both out to you. They’re only short but have both left paw-shaped impressions on me.

Thank you to the lovely people at Picador and to Gabriela, especially, for her attentiveness in recommending this book to me. It should come as no surprise that the book-folk of Pan Macmillan managed to perfectly match this book to its reader, but they did. And whilst we still don’t have a real cat, I was happy to have this curled up on a pillow beside me whilst I wrote this review.

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In If Cats Disappeared From The World, the thirty year old narrator finds out he has months to live. Living alone with his cat, the narrator is trying to come to term with his diagnosis when he is visited by the devil who proposes a deal; in exchange for choosing something to disappear from the world, the narrator will be granted one more day of life. During the next week, the narrator must choose and learn what gives life meaning.

This is a short but powerful novel with simple and elegant language. At first the appearance of the devil seems absurd, but it becomes a clever narrative device, adding a comic element to a seemingly tragic tale.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the few important memories the narrator has of the people that meant the most to him in his life. There is a strong sense of loss throughout the exploration of the narrator’s past, but this is balanced with love and acceptance.

This is a beautiful story about what gives life meaning and I’d recommend it to anyone who reads to be reminded what it is to be human.

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My thanks to Pan MacMillan/Picador for an ARC via NetGalley.

I was attracted to this novel due to its title. As someone devoted to cats I could not imagine a world where they disappeared and so was curious to know what choices the narrator made in his dealings with the Devil. It is novella size in length and I read it in a single afternoon.

Upon starting my first thought was how charming and quirky it was. Certainly it deals with a difficult subject: coming to terms with death and dying yet does so in a way that is not morbid but rather contemplative. It is quite humorous in places and considers philosophical questions in an accessible way.

I rather fell in love with Cabbage (the cat) and was impressed at how well behaved he was outside the house: such as sitting in a bicycle basket and going on family holidays. The appearance of the Devil citing the events of Genesis was quite unusual given the narrator, based on his funeral arrangements, was Buddhist.

On finishing it could understand its wide appeal. It offers a heartfelt tale that has universal relevance no matter where we are in our life’s journey and also provides plenty of material for thought and discussion.

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I loved this book for various reasons. It is typical of the type of novel that is moralistic and inspirational, the types of novels that make you shift slightly in your world-view. This reminded me, at times, of The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly. I also loved the inventiveness of this novel, What let it down for me was that it felt a bit too preachy in parts, as if a point that had already been clearly implied was being hammered in. Also, some of the translation felt a little clunky, especially towards the end. Otherwise, I enjoyed this read immensely and hope more of the author's work gets translated!

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This is a lovely, thought provoking book. It's quite short, but the story lends itself to that. This could never be a long book as we would get very bored.

In short, our subject is dying, but if he agrees to remove one thing from the world every day, the devil will grant him an extra days life. Our subject lives alone, has no children, girlfriend, and is estranged from his father after his mothers death, so he agrees to the deal.

So, every day, he agrees to remove one thing, and gets to see the effect this has on his every day life. However, after a few days the devil wants him to get rid of cats. Our subject lives with a cat....what will he do?

This is a very short, thought provoking book translated from Japanese. Read it. It's worth it.

My thanks to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for this advance copy

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I had to read this story the second I saw the word 'cats' and I honestly can't think of much worse than a world without cats. When I started reading this book, I realised it was full of humour and straight away it was a put off as I don't read 'funny' things, but within a couple of chapters you realise that humour is just such a small part of the story and really the main part is looking at how different the world would be if objects were taken away from it. The protagonist is dying, but he can live an extra day by removing something from the world. Now this would be easy if for example you could say 'get rid of my dirty dishes', but no, it's things that have a lot more impact on our everyday lives such as phones. The protagonist goes from doing everything to stay alive for longer, to realising that either way death will eventually come for him anyway and what's the point of life without all these things we enjoy. This book does need a proofreader as I found a lot of grammatical errors and I wish there was just a chapter or two more of it to see the reconciliation, but I still can't take a star off for these as the story was so beautiful and heartbreaking all in one.

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A cute little book, translated from Japanese. Not the best book ever, but has a ‘what if’ situation that will keep you ticking.

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What a delightful read this was. Funny and sad, poignant and, at times, a little bit on the bonkers side. Yes, it has a message but that message will be different for everyone depending on their own life's experiences. I have spoken to a couple of people who have also read this book and we have taken some quite different things from it.
Our hero has been feeling off colour for a while now so he bites the bullet and visits the doctor. There he is told some devastating, life changing news. Now facing only a short time to live he looks at his life and starts to make a list. This doesn't go well and then he has a visitor. The devil appears and offers him a bit of a Faustian deal. If he chooses something to disappear from the world he can have an extra day to live. Now, this may sound easy, especially when you also factor in the fact that you won't be there for the fallout but initially he struggles and the devil has to assist.
At this point, I was reminded by the Talking Heads song, Nothing But Flowers which basically talks about the modern world's devolution to a more natural state. As our narrator starts to disappear things, he also think back on his life and, as more things go from the world, he leads himself to realise what he really needs to do before he dies.
OK, so I admit it, I was drawn to this book first by the title and then by the fact that the cat in the book was called Cabbage. Yes, I can be that shallow! But I am so glad I did as this book pretty much hit my every emotion as it meandered along. It had me chuckling, laughing, sobbing and, and I'm not ashamed to admit it, crying big ugly tears. It also made me think; a lot.
It was a relatively short read for me but it wasn't without substance. There were very few wasted words and definitely no superfluous waffle or padding. It simply said thing as they were. But, irrespective of the length of the book, it will be a book that I will ponder on some more over the next few weeks and months. Maybe even longer. It will also be a book that I will probably keep near to me, on my nightstand, so that I can revisit it at times, just to remember.
My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.

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