Thursday 22 August 2019

If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura

If Cats Disappeared from the World is an odd little book. I say odd because I'm not quite sure how I'm going to review it best.

Obviously, it has a cute cover designed to attract the attention of any cat lover (me) and a title that would greatly concern said cat lover. I'm also a fan of Japanese literature. So this should have been a no-brainer for me. But maybe that's where the problem lays.

It was so lightly written and felt so detached (zen?) in style that it barely scratched the surface of my consciousness.

It had it's moments. There just weren't enough of them.

There were quirky moments like the Devil turning up to bargain with the dying narrator, whilst wearing bright Hawaiian shirts. And the cat who woke up one morning speaking in the refined voice of an English gentleman. The message about the power we give our possessions was an interesting one, and gives one pause to consider what you could give up forever to save your own life.

But mostly it was a sweet, uncomplicated tale about living in the moment and embracing those you love.
Love has to end. That’s all. And even though everyone knows it they still fall in love. 
I guess it’s the same with life. We all know it has to end someday, but even so we act as if we’re going to live forever. Like love, life is beautiful because it has to end.


  • Published in Japan 2012 as Sekai kara Neko ga Kieta nara
  • Debut book by film producer Genki Kawamura
  • Made into a movie by Akira Nagai in 2016
  • Translated into English by Eric Selland 2018

Favourite Quote:
There's a limit to how well we know ourselves. We don't know what we look like to others, and we can't know our own future, and we can't know what our own death will be like.

Favourite Character:

  • Cabbage, the cat, of course, especially when he started talking! 

Favourite or Forget:
  • This was a HUGE hit in Japan and I can see why. As a fan of Japanese stories this one didn't live up to my expectations (I prefer the more complicated Murakami version of Japanese writing), but I'm not sorry I read it. 
  • The stuff about materialism and the effects of technology on our modern lives will linger long. 
  • Like many Japanese stories, what at first appears to be slight and sweet actually has subtle layers that get into your psyche as time goes by. 
  • It's a small novel that could be gobbled up in one sitting, but I would suggest going slower. By taking your time, you allow the layers to sift into your consciousness and you will get the most out of your reading experience.
  • When I first finished this book, I thought it was a forget. But over one week later, it is growing in my mind in significance.
  • It may not be a firm favourite, but I won't forget it either.

Book 20 of 20 Books of Summer Winter


  1. Interesting, Brona. I'm afraid I'm like you in that I like to read books that are deep. However, also like you, I'm fine with lighter ones here and there.
    I like the quote, but about love, yes, romantic love ends (unless it doesn't evolve into a different kind of love).

    1. Yes, I saw the quote about love was told through the voice of young person who hadn't experienced a lifetime of love or realised that romantic love evolves and matures into a deeper love. I'm reading Ordinary People by Diana Evans at the moment (cause why just read 3 books at once! why not make it 4?!) and its full of young 30 yr olds who are distressed at the loss/changing nature of romantic love/lust. I just want to shake them:-)

  2. I thought The Traveling Cat Chronicles was so much better. What is a huge hit in Japan often surprises me.

    As for our friend Moby Dick, I am reading along and will do so to the end. I’ve had a few reading obligations get in the way of what I wanted to be. Steady plow through it for momentum. My mother, however, finished it last night.­čśî

    1. Yes The Travelling Cat Chronicles was a far more complex, nuanced story and brought me to tears. No tears here.

      I'm finding my slow, steady schedule for Moby-Dick very handy right now too. I had forgotten my book groups book for this month and need to get it read this weekend and then I have another readalong in September for the Iris Murdoch readalong which I don't want to miss, as it's my last Murdoch left on my TBR pile. I obviously have trouble saying no :-)
      What I'm trying to say, is that I'm thrilled you're still reading along with us and that whatever schedule works for you is fine! Deb has also just finished, so perhaps we should link her up with your mum, so they can chat about the ending.


This blog has now moved to Wordpress.
Please visit This Reading Life to comment.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.