The book has some serious themes, too, such as sexual assault, the clearances of homeless people in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, and the loneliness and atomisation of life in a big city, where any sense of connection is hard won. Flo, the translator, sees herself as a “Japanologist” rather than a “Japanophile”, she says, and it seems that Bradley feels the same way. His author biography reveals that he speaks fluent Japanese and has a PhD focusing on the figure of the cat in the country’s literature. For any readers who want to know more about Japan, calico cats, loneliness or the interconnectedness of fractured lives, this intriguing debut is an excellent place to start.
Itsy-bitsy in structure it may be, but The Cat and the City does have drive, the stories gradually migrating from slices of life to spiky drama, bristling with threat. And there is resolution of sorts. The key pleasure of reading this book, however, is its sprightly vigour — cool but not hipsterish, ambitious but not pretentious — that evokes a similar liveliness in the reader. It makes you feel young again.