Member Reviews

As a fan of Japanese literature and cats I was attracted to this book straightaway when it was suggested to me to by Netgalley to review..
Our protagonist is told he only has days to live and so cue an appearance from the devil in a Hawaiian shirt who says he can add extra days to his life if he agrees certain things from his life must disappear from the World. As the story starts to unfold we see how each of the devils choices have shaped him, he recalls the memories they have made, how they have been a part of his life and the friends and family he shared them with and the impact he believes it would have on people if they disappeared from their lives.
I can't say it was much of a glimpse in to the Japanese culture I often seek. This book could of been set anywhere in the World, telling the tale as just the few references to films etc reminded you where it was but it didn't matter this time as the quality of the story was overriding.
To summarise, this is a life reflection novel, one of those that gets you thinking about what really matters, making sure you are living life to the full and the trace you would or would not leave when you go.
But ultimately everyone has a cut off point where they have had enough and the devils suggestion of cats is just the utter finale.
I found it really emotional near the end something that I hadn't read in many other reviews but maybe I have had different life experiences than those people and if you have lost a parent through death or a breakdown in the relationship this is where the heart strings pull and it resonates.
It's an emotional life pondering book and one I enjoyed very much.
My thanks go to the author, publishers and Netgalley in providing me with the arc in return for a honest review.

Was this review helpful?

The protagonist of this book learns he is going to die. Luckily, the devil is on hand to give him more days to live, more to complete whatever bucket list he decides to tick off. Unfortunately, for every day he lives he has to get rid of one thing from the world.

If Cats Disappeared From the World artfully makes the reader ponder the question, what is my life worth? It’s a short book (perhaps too short as sometimes the characters seem a little poorly developed) which combines humour, poignancy and a pinch of magical realism.

I really enjoyed If Cats Disappeared From the World. I felt very invested in the narrator’s story and the choices he made.

Was this review helpful?

I am in such a blubbering mess over this book I don't know where to start. I kind of loved it but I'm really not too sure what I think about the writing style.

I have to admit that what initially drew me to this book was the cover and that title. As a cat lover and owner of a small black cat I can't think of anything worse than cats disappearing from the world but thankfully it's not really about that. It's a story about a 30 year old man who finds out he's going to die soon. He's offered a deal by the devil whereby if he removes one thing from existence he gets one more day of life. As he agrees to give up each thing however he remembers events and people from his past and how a meaningless object may in fact have some kind of purpose and importance. He has to figure out what it is that makes life worth living, what his purpose really is and whether it's worth living if the things he loves no longer exist.

As you can imagine it's an incredibly sad story and there was a lot of it that really resonated with me. He fears a lot of the things I do and has similar regrets and reactions. I think I cried solidly for around the last 50% of the book and went through most of a box of tissues. It isn't all tears though and there are thankfully some very funny moments to balance things out.

Where I'm really struggling however is with the writing as I can't decide what to think and as it was translated from Japanese it's difficult to know how much is down to the original and how much to the translation. The whole thing is very short and snappy and there is very little in the way of descriptions or dialogue being almost entirely an internal monologue. There is little sense of place or culture so could be set pretty much anywhere which I thought was a bit of a shame.

There is also something a little off in the dialogue and the interactions between characters. I can't put my finger on exactly what it was but something didn't quite feel right to me. Despite this though it did get to me and while I do cry pretty easily this is possibly the most I've cried reading a book in a while.

So where does that leave me? I think I may need to read it again but I think I kind of loved it. I loved the message in it and I loved how emotional it made me. I'm now off to give my cat a cuddle (which he'll totally hate).

Was this review helpful?

I wonder if the translation let this novella down? It was clunky, American English, and made me feel like an American teen had written it. Japanese literature that I've read is often quirky and a little odd (see Murakami!) but usually odd in a good way. This just left me a feeling a bit cold.

The part I liked was the part with the cat, but much of the rest left me unmoved. The storyteller has been given days to live, but then the devil appears & tells him that if he gets rid of 'something' from the world, he can buy himself an extra day. I felt it was obvious that you get rid of something bad or unobtrusive, like brussel sprouts, but this guy gets rid of telephones...

The ending was a bit too heavy on the sweet, and there was something just not quite right with the whole story. More cat, less dying man perhaps?

Was this review helpful?

Over 1 million copies sold in Japan, the blurb says. Hmmmmm......... Imagine you’ve been told you’re terminally ill. The devil comes to visit and says that you can make something in the world disappear each day in exchange for an extra day of life. You go along with this for a couple of days. Personally, I would be choosing broad beans, barley and chewing gum as my first three trades, rather than telephones, clocks and movies, but each to their own.

I enjoyed this story up to a point as it was quite amusing and I’m a sucker for a talking cat (or dog). As the end (in every way) drew nigh however, it became so saccharine sweet and Pollyanna meets Forrest Gumpish that I finished it needing a palate cleanser. Also, I found the translation a bit clunky. It’s in American English which jarred a little with me. Overall, 3 stars because it kept me amused up to a point.

With thanks to NetGalley and Pan MacMillan for a free review copy.

Was this review helpful?

If Cats Disappeared From The World is a simple, straightforward but unusual story. A man is told that he is about to die and the devil appears to him offering a deal: he can have an extra day of life each time he agrees that something will disappear from the world. The book discusses the choices he makes (or that are made for him by the devil), the impact of those choices on his life (it doesn’t really look at he impact on wider society) and the point at which he decides “enough is enough”.

This is not a complicated book. The writing is simple and easy to read. For a long time as I read it I could not quite put my finger on what was unusual about the style. Then I realised, and this may be a feature of Japanese literature, there are hardly any adjectives and even fewer adverbs: the novel tells you the story, but it does not see any need to embellish it with fancy descriptions. Nothing complicated happens in the story. We are left with a simple narrative that exists, I think, with one purpose: to make the reader think about their life. It seems there are perhaps three key topics the reader is encouraged to think about:

1. What value do you place on your life in comparison to the things that surround you? How do you decide what matters and what you could do without?
2. No one knows how long their life will be, so perhaps we should all live as if each day is our last. Better to do this than to seek to unnaturally extend our lives by taking things away from the world around us.
3. What would the world be like if the thing that disappeared was you? Are you living in a way that means you would be missed?

These are not questions that have never been asked before, so there isn’t really anything new in the book. What there is is a story that reflects on these things in a way that is easy to relate to and in a way that gives you cause to stop and think about your own life. I don’t know - maybe you think about value, about mortality about influence on a regular basis, but I am not sure that most of us do. This book only takes a couple of hours to read, but that is a couple of hours in which you can pause for thought. And that’s never a bad thing.

PS There is also a movie version of the story.

Was this review helpful?

Imagine you're about to die, but the Devil will extend your life a day for each thing you agree can disappear from the world... What would you give up? What means the most to you? What would be the pivotal point whereby you choose death? Quirky and unusual, this is nevertheless thought-provoking. A quick and amusing little read.

Was this review helpful?

One word review: Affirming

Rambling review: A brief, delightful book with a highly affirming quality. A very cute concept which has been executed very well.

This story was very well received in Japan, where it sold over one million copies and was turned into a film, and the English translation is being published today. It's a perfect little read for your commutes - humorous, light but though provoking, and a very touching narrator.

P.S. I can't help but feel how different the plot would be if it was a scruffy little doggo, and not a very well-behaved Cabbage!

-- blog scheduled for 20 Sept, publication day --

Was this review helpful?