Blog Post

Review: If Cats Disappeared from the World

  • By Kelsey Ward
  • 02 Mar, 2019

If Cats Disappeared from the World

By Genki Kawamura

Reviewed by Kelsey Ward


Our narrator's days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage for company, he was unprepared for the doctor's diagnosis that he has only months to live.

But then the Devil appears with a special offer: in exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, he can have one extra day of life. And thus, begins a very bizarre week and an extraordinary book.

This is a steady, emotive story, with an easy rhythm and a modest ensemble, Cabbage included. The Devil is beguiling and yet it is the mortal characters who give the story its depth and power. Kawamura has a tender approach to these few people (and cat) resulting in realistic, heartfelt relationships.

Plenty of authors have written novels five and six times the length of this yet fail to achieve the emotional gravity Kawamura has woven into these few pages. His writing is as generous as it is precise. While not without flourish and a pinch of humour (fortunately not lost in translation) so much is said with so little. The dead weight and unessential baggage of the rest of the world fall away, allowing an authentic understanding of humans and humanity to rise in its stead.

It is easy to see why it has sold over a million copies in Japan. Easier still to see why it has been, rather skillfully, translated into English. If Cats Disappeared from the World is a universal story of love, understanding and what it means to be a family.

To say I read it in its entirety with dry eyes would be a lie. I’ve already turned to read it again, pleased to gain so much from such an unassuming book, worthy of every inch of praise and acclaim.

Related Posts 
By Kelsey Ward 05 Apr, 2019

What unites Katherine Mansfield, Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, Rilke, Beethoven, Brexit, the present, the past, the north, the south, the east, the west, a man mourning lost times, a woman trapped in modern times?

Spring. The great connective.

With an eye to the migrancy of story over time, and riffing on Pericles, one of Shakespeare's most resistant and rollicking works, Ali Smith tells the impossible tale of an impossible time. In a time of walls and lockdown Smith opens the door.

The time we're living in is changing nature. Will it change the nature of story?

Hope springs eternal.

Smith is an iconic storyteller. Her mastery of language and imagery continues in the third of her Seasonal Quartet. A long reaching tale with evocative characters and realistic relationships.

A deeply important work of fiction for the heated and troubled times we live in, and yet Smith imbues this story with hope for the future.   

Ground Breaking. If ever a book deserved the title of masterpiece Spring is just such a book. 

By Kelsey Ward 05 Apr, 2019

Spring is nature's season of rebirth and rejuvenation. Earth's northern hemisphere tilts towards the sun, winter yields to intensifying light and warmth, and a wild, elemental beauty transforms the Highland landscape and a repertoire of islands from Colonsay to Lindisfarne. Jim Crumley chronicles the wonder, tumult and spectacle of that transformation, but he shows too that it is no Wordsworthian idyll that unfolds.

Climate chaos brings unwanted drama to the lives of badger and fox, seal and seabird and raptor, pine marten and sand martin. Jim lays bare the impact of global warming and urges us all towards a more daring conservation vision that embraces everything from the mountain treeline to a second spring for the wolf.

The Nature of Spring continues Crumley’s seasonal writing series. Just like Autumn and winter, Spring is beautiful and extraordinary. There is a softness to the cover, with bluebells in the undergrowth. Ye

Crumley reminds us that nature is not the cheery, purple petunia, yellow fluffy Easter duckling we have come to think it as. It can be harsh, jarring, with the sudden thaw of winter snow. Or the hungry hibernators emerging from their dens. He reminds us how temporary it is and the realities of human habitation and global warming.

Nature is both personal and global. The intimate approach to the animals and environments he comes across result in almost tactile prose.

In the end, I found it hopeful. The Nature of Spring is an excellent addition to the world, worth every moment of your time and enjoyment.

By Kelsey Ward 26 Mar, 2019
In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever.

Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.

Transcription is a work of rare depth and texture, a bravura modern novel of extraordinary power, wit and empathy. A spy novel, which takes apart the very genre. Atkinson's sense of humor still remains very much present without losing a sense of pacing. 

It is a triumphant work of fiction from one of this country's most exceptional writers.
By Kelsey Ward 26 Mar, 2019

London, 1941. Amid the falling bombs Emmeline Lake dreams of becoming a fearless Lady War Correspondent. Unfortunately, Emmy instead finds herself employed as a typist for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt at Woman's Friend magazine.

Mrs Bird refuses to read, let alone answer, letters containing any form of Unpleasantness, and definitely not those from the lovelorn, grief-stricken or morally conflicted. But the thought of these desperate women waiting for an answer at this most desperate of times becomes impossible for Emmy to ignore. She decides she simply must help and secretly starts to write back - after all, what harm could that possibly do?

A joyous read. Absolutely uplifting, with one of those lovely sorts of characters that grows from frustrating to beautiful. There are many charming and funny moments,

Pearce gives genuine insight and emotional gravity to the London Blitz, capturing the spirit of the times, as well as the emotional gravitas. A good comfort read.

More Posts
Share by: