The Cat's Table Paperback – Deckle Edge, Jun 12 2012
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"A completely original orchestration of a coming-of-age story, memoir, maritime adventure as powerful as Conrad or Stevenson.... Astonishing."
—Howard Norman, The Globe and Mail
"Ondaatje's most accessible, most compelling novel to date."
—Robert J Wiersema, The Vancouver Sun
"Michael Ondaatje is the greatest living writer in the English language.... All that is great in his other books is fully present in The Cat's Table."
—Aleksander Hemon, The Wall Street Journal (Favourite Book of 2011)
"The most beautiful, haunting and ageless book I've read this year."
—Pico Iyer, The Hindu
About the Author
MICHAEL ONDAATJE is the author of five previous novels, a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and several books of poetry. The English Patient won the Booker Prize; Anil's Ghost won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Prix Médicis. Born in Sri Lanka, Ondaatje now lives in Toronto.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Young Michael and his two new friends, Cassius and Ramadhin, become soon inseparable. They freely roam the huge ship, exploring any nook and cranny they can get into, especially during nights. Cassius is the rambunctious, Ramadhin, the cautious, more reasonable one, conscious of his "weak heart". Michael describes himself as a "follower".Read more ›
During a recent interview, Ondaatje quipped that the story line of "The Cat's Table" consists of, "A boy [Michael] getting on a boat...and getting off a boat." Fortunately, the plot develops beyond such a reduction. On a 1950s voyage from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to England, the reader meets three young boys who, free from adult guardians, find opportunities to spy, assist in burglary, smoke unknown substances, and speculate on human behavior. A slew of eccentrics join these boys at their dining table, sharing world knowledge and personal stories: a tailor, a botanist, a burned-out pianist, a retired ship junker and a mysterious spinster. A chained murderer, a deaf girl, an upper-class woman who largely neglects her role as Michael's caretaker and Michael's comely cousin complete the novel's cast of skillfully manipulated and mysterious characters. Each personality harbours secrets, which emerge both on board the Oronsay and during the flash-forwards that dominate the book's latter half.
I have always revered Ondaatje as a poet for he has an incredible ability to manipulate the intricacies of space and time. This skill shines in "The Cat's Table," producing a spare yet lucid story that engages the reader's intellect. The storyline moves fluidly while the author leaves enough unsaid for his audience to play an active role in piecing together his puzzle.
I say narratives because The Cat's Table encompasses many stories: in its seemingly straightforward telling of a boy's 21 days on a ship bound from Sri Lanka to England, its deeply complex characters offer glimpses of chance encounters and intermingled lives. The book is a palimpsest, the story of an 11-year-old boy named Michael, told by his older self who happens to be a well-known writer, written by Michael Ondaatje, who includes a disclaimer that while he took a similar trip as a boy, this work is purely fictional. These three Michaels intersect with one another in a memory play seen through the lens of the ship. The language and reflections are mature: this is the understanding only an adult can bring when he looks back at himself years later, trying to come to grips with how the smallest of actions can ripple through many lives over many years.
The titular Cat's Table is the opposite of the Captain's Table, the least prestigious spot in the dining room. The characters who gather around it pass through young Michael's shipbound existence, from his two contemporaries who raise hell with him all over the ship to the adults at the table. You get the sense that an entire novel could be devoted to any one of these subsidiary characters, even though they figure in only small ways in Michael's story.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
It's just not that great as some seem to think. In the Skin of a Lion is where it's at.Published 16 months ago by Pete
The comments on the book jacket would make you expect a brilliant, engaging and entertaining story. I don't get it. The first half of the book is mostly very boring. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Pat the cat
The era of traveling on a ship for a long distance to go home to a family he barely new was interesting and showed how adventuresome young boys can be when they are left on their... Read morePublished on March 26 2014 by Fred Rankine
I loved the colourful but believable characters in this book. Ondaatje takes the tale of a young Celanese boy who boards a ship to sail to England to join the mother that he... Read morePublished on March 6 2014 by Gaye Keep
Felt it dragged on and did not capture my attention at all. Would not recommend it at all to anyone.Published on Dec 22 2013 by Anne Cromack
The subject not attractive or interesting enough and the pace of story was extremely slow. I have read better books from M. Ondaatje, but this one was not what I was hoping for.Published on Oct. 1 2013 by Mr Mantra