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Cat's Eye Paperback – January 20, 1998
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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"A brilliant, three-dimensional mosaic...the story of Elaine's childhood is so real and heartbreaking you want to stand up in your seat and cheer." —Boston Sunday Globe
"Stunning...Atwood conceives Elaine with a poet's transforming fire; and delivers her to us that way, a flame inside an icicle." —Los Angeles Times
"Nightmarish, evocative, heartbreaking." —The New York Times Book Review
"The best book in a long time on female friendships... Cat's Eye is remarkable, funny, and serious, brimming with uncanny wisdom." —Cosmopolitan
From the Inside Flap
Cat's Eye is the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman--but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, Cat's Eye is a breathtaking novel of a woman grappling with the tangled knot of her life.
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Unlike some successful authors, Atwood never repeats her ideas from one book to the next but each novel is a new journey in which you're always fully immersed in the lives of the characters. Cat's Eye is no different in this respect and I was completely absorbed from start to end.
I particularly liked the depiction of the child's world as one in which you observe but can't quite intervene; how this moves into the teenage years when a quiet but cruel form of revenge is exacted in a precise and self-conscious way; the relationship with the narrator's brother is drawn through perfectly concise details, with just enough information provided but never too much.
This reflects another impressive feature of the novel in that there's nothing redundant in this story. Everything has a reason to be there and Atwood's skill at this level is immense. She's a brilliant writer and Cat's Eye is simply further proof of this. To say I stand in awe of her abilities and the impact her work makes on my life is a vast understatement. She is, quite simply, brilliant.
Despite Elaine's success in art and love, she has never come to terms with her relationship with Cordelia. "Cat's Eye" follows Elaine's search for Cordelia and the path that Elaine follows as she tries to understand their "friendship."
Elaine herself is a dark character, as she tends to have a solemn outlook on life and never seems to display happiness. Her pensive nature leads to interesting observations on the meaning of her art and how the avant garde work resulted from her early childhood experiences. Elaine's reflections also allow the reader to follow the interactions between Elaine's parents, brother, and herself; her introduction to religion; her first experiences with art; and her experiences with the opposite sex. While this book isn't easy to read, as Atwood writes in great detail and the pace of the book moves slowly, Elaine's reflections are interesting and the way she overcomes Cordelia's evil spell leads one to believe that good can prevail over evil.
Buildings that have disappeared, new businesses that have cropped up to replace them, and the memories attached to the once familiar landscape stand out in stark relief.
Elaine's childhood included a gypsy-like traveling about with her entomologist father, and the family camped out in tents. Then would come the months in an almost normal home, but without the normalcy she sees around her. Her fears, her insecurities, and the differences she can feel within must somehow convey themselves to the three girls who call themselves "friends." Is there any other reason for the torture she suffers at their hands?
But years later, only parts of this history remain in her memory, slowly returning in flashes.
The language and images of Cat's Eye were haunting, unforgettable, and reminiscent of some of my own childhood experiences. Who hasn't felt, at one time or another, the insecurity of not fitting in? Who hasn't been bullied or taunted? Reading Elaine's story, from the past to the present, brought these old memories back in full force.
Combined with the visual images of the art showing that depicts many of those childhood moments, the language in Atwood's story had me rereading parts because of the sheer magic of the words. Especially in one poignant scene, when Elaine is remembering a time from her first marriage, as she lies alone in the dark with a sick child while everything is falling apart around her:
"I crouch in the bedroom, in the dark, wrapped in Jon's old sleeping bag, listening to the wheezing sound of Sarah breathing and the whisper of sleet against the window. Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. It's like the tide going out, revealing whatever's been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones. This is the kind of thing you see if you sit in the darkness with open eyes, not knowing the future. The ruin you've made."
Throughout this novel, visual images like these totally blew me away with their magnitude. I will not forget this book ever! Five stars.
Those pictures emit emotions, smells and plant the reader square into the story.