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Cat's Eye [Paperback]

Margaret Atwood
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 16 1999
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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Product Description

From Amazon

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A most enjoyable read Jan. 24 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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. The business of growing up, being bullied and overcoming trials of one's childhood were well addressed. The tale was intertwined with views of the past and views of the present. I was present at a book club meeing in Portland, Oregon for the discussion of this book. All eighteen present agreed that it was a well chosen wonderful read. To be the only Canadian in the group and to hear the words of praise for this Canadian book by Margaret Atwood was excellent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Atwood's best books Dec 2 2001
Format:Paperback
I've read all of Margaret Atwood's books, except Alias Grace. I read my sister's copy of Cat's Eye when if first came out and remember thinking: "hmmm, kind of a rehash of themes from earlier books," specifically Lady Oracle, in which menacing ravines also figure. It seemed a so-so, traditional effort after the more obviously audacious Handmaid's Tale.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic and Intriguing Dec 31 2011
Format:Paperback
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars SAD Aug. 22 2010
Format:Paperback
"If I were to see Cordelia again, what would I tell her about myself? The truth, or whatever would make me look good."

This novel started off at a fast pace and kept me glued to the pages. Elaine is the victim of the bullying of a group of three girls who are considered her friends. Although they are supposed to be friends they make Elaine a scapegoat for everthing that happens in the three girls' lives. She is obedient to their punishment, becasue she thinks she really deserves it. But suddenly one day that all changes and we are brought into the the future lives of these young women. Not a bad book but very detailed, and towards the end I was gettinga little weary of it.
Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar (Sugar-Cane- August 21st, 2010)
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3.0 out of 5 stars so true... March 23 2005
Format:Paperback
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. I had friends much like Elaine's and I wouldn't be surprised if I had once been a friend like that.
The novel was well written and the first half of it had me entranced but as the novel continued on, I felt as though Atwood had grown bored with the plot. I forced myself to finish the book just because I had read two of her other novels (The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake) and loved them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ...a sustained poem. March 30 2003
Format:Paperback
Being male, I found that reading this book along with my female friend helped me to appreciate it more than I would have on my own. She commented, several times, that "language and observation make this book a sustained poem" and I agreed several times. Her perspective was needed and appreciated. It is definitely a book ABOUT women and FOR women, but us dudes can get something out of it too... because it is brilliantly written.
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 ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars One to keep Feb. 27 2002
Format:Paperback
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. I would suggest this book to anyone that wanted a good rainy day afternoon book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Magical Marbles Don't Help Elaine Feb. 15 2002
Format:Paperback
"Cat's Eye" was a good example of the cruelties that little girls face during their childhood. Elaine, the main character, goes through the first eight years of her life acting like a boy, because she has a brother, and that is the only way she knows how to act. When her parents move to Toronto, she is faced with having to make friends that are girls. Elaine finds some cruel friends that criticize her every move. She is punished in obscene ways like being put down in a hole in the ground and covered with dirt for hours. Her "friends" make Elaine feel that they are "helping" her, and that it is a little girl's game that adults don't know about. When Elaine finds out that the adults were ok with it, she learns to hate. While playing a game of marble's, Elaine wins a cat's eye marble and she honestly believes that it will keep her safe from the girls. As you read the book, you will see how the girls in her childhood affected how she lived the rest of her life. The book was a little confusing, and hard to follow, since Atwood goes back and forth between the past and the present. Overall I would say that "Cat's Eye" isn't a GREAT book, but it isn't bad either.
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