Cat's Eye Paperback – Feb 16 1999
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Cat's Eye is one of Margaret Atwood's most intriguing novels, a ruminative, symbol-laced, and deceptively loose book that encompasses many of the concerns of her earlier works, compounding them with a new awareness of aging and the curious vagaries of memory. Its premise is simple enough: Elaine Risley, a successful painter living on the West Coast, returns to Toronto, the scene of her childhood and artistic development, for a retrospective of her work at an independent feminist gallery. As Risley arrives in Toronto, she begins to examine her past in that city, from her early girlhood through to the final days of her first marriage. Risley's memories dominate the book; her exhibition is a light but important counterpoint to all that has gone before it.
In a sense, Cat's Eye is a feminist deconstruction of the artist's coming-of-age novel, but Risley's feminism is skeptical and detached. Her painful girlhood friendships haunt her through her middle age, and she has far more sympathy for men than she does for the women who have supported her career. As a result, Cat's Eye transcends orthodox feminism and rigorously examines troubling questions of gender, sexuality, and art from a wryly nonpartisan perspective. Fans of Atwood's more recent novels will love Cat's Eye, but it is a book that deserves the attention of her numerous detractors; perhaps it will encourage them to give her a second look. --Jack Illingworth --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Herself the daughter of a Canadian forest entomologist, Atwood writes in an autobiographical vein about Elaine Risley, a middle-aged Canadian painter (and daughter of a forest entomologist) who is thrust into an extended reconsideration of her past while attending a retrospective show of her work in Toronto, a city she had fled years earlier in order to leave behind painful memories. Most pointedly, Risley reflects on the strangeness of her long relations with Cordelia, a childhood friend whose cruelties, dealt lavishly to Risley, helped hone her awareness of our inveterate appetite for destruction even while we love, and are understood as characteristically femininea betrayal of other women that masks a ferocious betrayal of oneself. Atwood's portrayal of the friendship gives the novel its fraught and mysterious center, but her critical assessment of Cordelia and the "whole world of girls and their doings" also takes the measure of a coercive, conformist society (not quite as extreme as in the futuristic The Handmaid's Tale ). Emerging "the stronger" for her latecoming understanding of herself, Risley in the final pages rises above the ties that bound her, transcendently alive to the possibilities of "light, shining out in the midst of nothing." BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Recently, however, after 9/11, i went through a phase where I couldn't read, couldn't find a book that could hold my attention, lead me into its world, make me care.
Came upon Cat's Eye in a thrift store. Revelation: how much stronger and sure-stepped it seems to me the second time. Atwood's expert handling of the slow power shift between Elaine and Cordelia affected me more deeply this time, perhaps because I've lived longer now and have seen strong friends falter and others, once dismissed as "quiet," emerge as the real, fierce talents.
Don't hesitate. Read it.
It is not only an "Atwood" but one of the better "Atwoods"!
The author has stated that Cat's Eye is "about how girlhood traumas continue into adult life" and that is it in a nutshell.
When the painter Elaine Risley returns to Toronto for a retrospective of her work, she is confronted with the memories of her childhood... mysteries to unravel, others to tie up and lay to rest. Elaine the child, had a temperament that allowed other girls to belittle and dominate her.
In a word, she was bullied.
And no one bullied her as much as Cordelia did.
When Elaine is brought back to the geography of her past, she finds that she has to come to terms with her feelings about Cordelia... this retrospective of her WORK turns into a retrospective of her LIFE.
Through flashbacks galore, and in writing that is spare and bleeding with cut-wrist exposure, Atwood leaves no part of Elaine's wounds unsalted.
Here is a question that I think the thoughtful reader will be asked to ponder:
Does "closure" mean annihilation/renunciation of memory, or acceptance/reconciliation of memory?
Or as my friend and I put it: Does Elaine still have her Cat's Eye with her when she returns to Vancouver?
This is not a plot-driven, but a personality or character driven book. Those who think that sound-bites on T.V.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
One of the best stories I've read. Although it was fiction it described some of the difficulties a young girl faces.and how they are resolved in later life.Published 17 months ago by elizabeth bamford
For me, this was almost MY history growing up and living in Canada. All of the references were ones that I knew. It was very well written. Read morePublished on Jan. 24 2014 by Duncan A Locke
I won't say anything that hasn't already been told by other reviews of this book, except that this is the novel which made me really love Atwood.Published on Dec 31 2011 by David Sabine
"If I were to see Cordelia again, what would I tell her about myself? The truth, or whatever would make me look good. Read morePublished on Aug. 22 2010 by Heather Negahdar
I am a seventeen year old girl and this book really struck a chord within me. The things that the girls did to Elaine sent a chill down my spine but they didn't shock me. At all. Read morePublished on March 22 2005
This was a book that was loaned to me and I read it to kill some time. It has become one of my favorite books. I actually read that original copy to pieces. Read morePublished on Feb. 27 2002 by Lissa Glide
Reading Margaret Atwood -her work, the "cats eye" was emotive in a vituperative out pouring of all that wants to be seemingly human and ratiocinatively inhuman in torrents that... Read morePublished on Dec 8 2001 by Stephen Deed Locust
This was a wonderful read about the growing pains that most young women go through and the way that we learn to become functioning adults. Read morePublished on Nov. 29 2001