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The Cat's Table (Vintage International) [Kindle Edition]

Michael Ondaatje
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (341 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.01 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the “cat’s table”—as far from the Captain’s Table as can be—with a ragtag group of “insignificant” adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another, bursting all over the place like freed mercury. But there are other diversions as well: one man talks with them about jazz and women, another opens the door to the world of literature. The narrator’s elusive, beautiful cousin Emily becomes his confidante, allowing him to see himself “with a distant eye” for the first time, and to feel the first stirring of desire. Another Cat’s Table denizen, the shadowy Miss Lasqueti, is perhaps more than what she seems. And very late every night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner, his crime and his fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.
 
As the narrative moves between the decks and holds of the ship and the boy’s adult years, it tells a spellbinding story—by turns poignant and electrifying—about the magical, often forbidden, discoveries of childhood and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2011: Michael Ondaatje's finely wrought new novel chronicles a young boy's passage from Sri Lanka to London onboard the Oronsay, both as it unfolds and in hindsight. Glancing off the author's own biography, the story follows 11-year-old Michael as he immerses himself in the hidden corners and relationships of a temporary floating world, overcoming its physical boundaries with the expanse of his imagination. The boy's companions at the so-called Cat's Table, where the ship’s unconnected strays dine together, become his friends and teachers, each leading him closer to the key that unlocks the Oronsay's mystery decades later. Elegantly structured and completely absorbing, The Cat's Table is a quiet masterpiece by a writer at the height of his craft. --Mia Lipman

Review

#1 – Maclean’s Bestseller
#1 – Globe & Mail Bestseller
A Globe and Mail Best Book 
A New York Times Notable Book

“A tour de force....startling, enchanting.”
Maclean's
 
 “Ondaatje slowly unravels a tapestry of images and dramatic (and exotic) tableaux…. [He] creates fascinating visual and sensual effects.”
Toronto Star
 
“Ondaatje’s most intimate yet.... Wonderful, offering all the best pleasures of Ondaatje’s writing.”
Globe and Mail
 
“Ondaatje's most accessible, compelling novel to date.  It may also be his finest...A breathtaking account not only of boyhood, but of its loss....Universal in its themes, heartbreakingly so, and a journey the reader will never forget.”
Vancouver Sun, (Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald)
 
“Ondaatje here fashions an entire world…. Is there a novelist who writes more compellingly about tenderness than Ondaatje?... Breathtaking.”
Montreal Gazette
 
“A convincing and genuinely moving narrative.”
National Post
 
“Michael Ondaatje wows with his tale of three boys who find friendship and intrigue on a sea voyage carrying them to the brink of adulthood.”
Chatelaine

“The mystery and magic of The Cat’s Table – and this can be said of all of Ondaatje’s writing, including his best-known novel, The English Patient (1992) – lies in its sinuous narrative weave between present, past and a future sometimes contemplated, sometimes fated, and then always inhabited…. As the latest of Ondaatje’s artful and glowing geographies and histories of the human heart, this vessel makes another, differently disposed, ...

Product Details

  • File Size: 784 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1444810901
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 4, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4X2RQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,183 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
274 of 280 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It takes a lifetime to come of age October 7, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
At the age of eleven, Michael boards an ocean liner bound for England. With his friends Cassius and Ramadhin, he explores the ship and befriends eccentric passengers: Mr. Fonseka, a literature teacher from Colombo who displays the "serenity and certainty" Michael has observed "only among those who have the armor of books close by"; Mr. Daniels, who has transformed a section of the hold into an exotic garden; the musician and blues fan Max Mazappa; an Australian girl who greets the dawn by roller skating fiercely around the deck; Miss Lasqueti, a woman with a surprising, hidden background who is traveling with dozens of pigeons; a hearing impaired Singhalese girl named Asuntha, and others. "Simply by being in their midst," the boys are learning about adults, including those assigned to sit with them at the low-status Cat's Table, situated at the opposite end of the dining room from the Captain's Table. Michael's other lessons include his first fleeting experience with love and desire, as well as a taste of European racism, both subtle and (particularly in the case of the ship's captain) overt.

Two other passengers Michael knows only by sight. Sir Hector de Silva, a wealthy but ill passenger in Emperor Class accommodations, has bad luck with dogs, perhaps because a spell was cast upon him. At the opposite end of the social spectrum is a prisoner, rumored to be a murderer, whose midnight strolls on the deck -- closely guarded and in chains -- the concealed boys observe with fascination.

Michael Ondaatje keeps all these characters in motion like a master juggler.
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182 of 197 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of Ondaatje's work September 23, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I run hot and cold on Michael Ondaatie's writing. However, his new book, THE CAT"S TABLE, resonated in a part of my mind long ignored. In some of his other works, DIVISIDERO and THE ENGLISH PATIENT, to mention a couple, he uses many unlikely characters in the telling of his story that seem to run together with no special destination or closure. To me the books are disjointed and not very interesting or realistic. In Cat's Table, he uses the same formula but with more satisfying results. In fact, having been something of a scoundrel in my early years, the boys in this novel reawakened my early existence with their endless curiosity, mindless pranks, and earthy delight in just being boys.

I'm getting ahead of myself. As Ondaatje said, during an interview, the storyline is "A boy (Michael) gets on a boat...and gets off a boat." Fortunately, for us, the author understates the events that subsequently happen. Interest is added when we get to meet a couple of other boys and the three of them ramble unfettered around a large ship, finding opportunities to spy, to assist in burglary, smoke unknown substances, speculate on human behavior, and develop hot-blooded hormones over attractive girls. I too, at that stage of development, had similar adventures, although my spying was done through grass and brush along a small creek. I peeked through tree branches and gaps in large rocks rather than through the pipes, cables and railings found on a big ship. But I saw a lot of stuff, as these young fellows did.
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222 of 246 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I don't think I'm not reasonably intelligent... September 27, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
but I am not sure I "got" a lot of what was going on in this novel. While I loved the first third of the book, the last two-thirds eroded that sentiment.

"The Cat's Table" is the story of Michael, an 11-year-old who is put on a ship for a three-week voyage from Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to England. Through his assignment to the "Cat's Table," he meets up with two other boys about his age and various other characters (and there are a few at other tables whom he knows or gets to know).

The first part of the novel is told exclusively from the point of view of 11-year-old Michael and it is highly entertaining and enjoyable to observe his exploits and hear his observations from them. Thereafter, the book skips forward and backward in time, so we hear from the adult Michael about things that happened to him and other characters since the trip, as well as his recounting of some of the events that took place on the ship from the vantage point of recollection, rather than observation. It is a result of this frequent change of time and perspective that I got somewhat lost in and bogged down by the book.

In addition, as the story is told by Michael, what he observes and chooses to tell us is all we really know about the other characters in the book; there is very little opportunity to observe them directly. As a result, I never really came to care much about any of the charactersin the novel. In this regard, I find it interesting to note that "The Cat's Tale" contains more characters than are in several of Michael Ondaatje's other novels COMBINED. I think this fact serves to highlight that Ondaatje is better than most authors at creating beautiful pictures and atmospheres with his words, but is not nearly as good at creating fully realized characters.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A slow moving coming-of-age story with a great twist at the end
It takes awhile to get comfortable with the many characters in this story of a young man learning about himself and the people with whom he comes in contact. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Carol
5.0 out of 5 stars the characters are wonderfully drawn and the story is enticingly...
A superb read, the characters are wonderfully drawn and the story is enticingly crafted.
Published 5 days ago by Dorothy Doe
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Rendering of Youth
It is interesting how our youth shapes life's journey. Ondaatje captures it well in this interesting novel. Nice read, enjoyed.
Published 1 month ago by Doris
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
I had a hard time getting through this one.
Published 1 month ago by Linda
3.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a try
This is the account of a young boy's sea journey from his point of view. It is interesting and well written but did not "grab" me. Read more
Published 1 month ago by L. Page
4.0 out of 5 stars A Beach Read
This improbable story was full of complxe characters seen through the eyes of a young boy sent on an adventure. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ellen
4.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars for the first 3/4 of the book!
I could not put this book down. I laughed and sighed and looked at an atlas and followed the boys' trip. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Eden Elizabeth
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
It seemed to be disorganized and somewhat confusing to follow at times.
Published 1 month ago by Bruce A. Tuthill
4.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly
Beautifully written, but overall, I was a little disappointed. The story in total, is more contemplative than I expected, and I think Ondaatje failed to integrate the child's... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jane DeMouy
3.0 out of 5 stars Never a stale author, Michael Ondaatje's considerable literary skills...
I was enticed by the title, The Cat's Table denoting the least advantageous of all tables in a ship's dining area I am told, unlike the prestigious Captain's table. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Noelle the Dreamer
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