“A Cat, A Man, and Two Women” by Junichiro Tanizaki | Book Review

Book Review | Ratings – 3/5| Genre – Japanese Fiction

So, during the gap inbetween lockdown 1 and 2, I managed to get myself into town and into my local bookshop to browse the shelves once again. Thats where I came across this book, catching my eye through the promise of seeing cats (yes, its that easy to convince me to buy a book).

Reading the blurb it seemed very much in the same vein as Genki Kawamuri “If Cats Disappeared from the World“, whereby the characters all centre around their feelings towards a cat. Plus, I’d been looking for a shorter book to read and this seemed like the one for me.

Shinako has been ousted from her marriage by her husband Shozo and his younger lover Fukuko. She’s lost everything: her home, status, and respectability. Yet the only thing she longs for is Lily, the elegant tortoiseshell cat she shared with her husband. As Shinako pleads for Lily’s return, Shozo’s reluctance to part with the cat reveals his true affections, and the lengths he’ll go to hold onto the one he loves most.

A small masterpiece, A Cat, a Man, and Two Women is a novel about loneliness, love, and companionship of the most unexpected kind. In this story of Japanese society and manners, Tanizaki gives us a perfectly-formed oddball comedy, and a love triangle in which the only real rival is feline. (synopsis from Goodreads)

What did I think?

My initial perceptions of the book were very much inline with Genki’s novel that I had read a couple months ago. I was able to once again enjoy a book that focused on a cat (a clear love for me), it was also this that made the book fairly easy to follow and to understand how the relationships between the various characters changed both before and during the book.

Here are the moments I enjoyed more…

  • Cats are the main focus: Its safe to say, I love cats and books that centre on them are easy wins for me. This book used the cat as a great catalyst for developing the relationships between the other characters. The presence of the cat helps to understand why certain people do certain things and feel a certain way.
  • Such an easy read: I was looking for a nice easy book to read and that is exactly what I got. The story was fairly self-explanatory and and easy to follow while remaining fairly entertaining.

Where could it have improved?

For me, I found myself not enjoying the book all that much. As easy as it was to read it became fairly easy to predict what was going to happen, making nothing that happened seem surprising at all. However, I can barely complain as thats the sort of book I was after so that I didn’t have to think that hard.

Then there was the actual characters. Good grief I’ve never hated characters as much as I did with these. They were all awful people trying to one up one another in how awful they could be. The one benefit being that the cat always seemed to be the focal point for everyones’ affections.

At the end of the day…

If you’re looking for a nice easy book to read then this is definitely the one for you. There is an abundance of cat related topics throughout and enough focus on the wonderful feline to make any cat lover happy.

However, the book comes across predictable and full of horrible characters who become rather too annoying at times to fully enjoy the book. Part of me does think I need to re-read this book as its got such good reviews from great authors that I feel I may have missed something.


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