- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: McClelland & Stewart; 1st Edition edition (Aug. 30 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0771068646
- ISBN-13: 978-0771068645
- Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.5 x 22 cm
- Shipping Weight: 499 g
- Average Customer Review: 40 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #124,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Cat's Table Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Aug 30 2011
|New from||Used from|
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
#1 – Maclean’s Bestseller
#1 – Globe & Mail Bestseller
A Globe and Mail Best Book
A New York Times Notable Book
LONGLIST 2013 – IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
“A tour de force....startling, enchanting.”
“Ondaatje slowly unravels a tapestry of images and dramatic (and exotic) tableaux…. [He] creates fascinating visual and sensual effects.”
“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.”
“A convincing and genuinely moving narrative.”
“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.”
“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, but related voyage across several strangely familiar seas.”
—Winnipeg Free Press
“A story so enveloping and beautifully rendered, one is reluctant to disembark at the end of the journey…. Though the ocean journey in The Cat’s Table lasts a mere 21 days, it encapsulates the fullness of a lifetime.”
—Quill and Quire
“[Ondaatje] is justly recognised as a master of literary craft….As we read into The Cat’s Table the story becomes more complex, more deadly, with an increasing sense of lives twisted awry, of misplaced devotion….The novel tells of a journey from childhood to the adult world, as well as a passage from the homeland to another country…. All that was seen and experienced, is carried ashore by the passengers in memories, damaged psyches, degrees of loss, evanescent joy and reordered lives.”
—Annie Proulx, The Guardian
“No one who has read a novel or poem by Ondaatje can easily forget its powerful imagery…. His wondrous prose feels more alive to the world than ever before.”
“Three children mapping the hidden regions of a floating world – a world of displaced people, of travelers between lands…. The Cat’s Table deserves to be recognized for the beauty and poetry of its writing: pages that lull you with their carefully constructed rhythm, sailing you effortlessly from chapter to chapter and leaving you bereft when forced to disembark at the novel’s end.”
— The Telegraph (UK)
“Ondaatje’s great achievement is demonstrating that fiction can be stranger than truth.”
— The Spectator (UK)
“An eloquent, elegiac tribute to the game of youth and how it shapes what follows…. Sheer brilliance of characterization on show. The bit players on board The Oronsay are almost Dickensian in their eccentricity and lovability….. Ondaatje has created a beautiful and poetic study here of what it means to have your very existence metaphorically, as well as literally, at sea.”
—The Independent on Sunday (UK)
“The Cat’s Table is an exquisite example of the richness that can flourish in the gaps between fact and fiction…. It is an adventure story, it is a meditation on power, memory, art, childhood, love and loss. It displays a technique so formidable as to seem almost playful. It is one of those rare books that one could reread an infinite number of times, and always find something new within its pages.”
—London Evening Standard
“In a novel superbly poised between the magic of innocence and the melancholy of experience, Mr. Ondaatje probes what it means to have a cautious heart.”
“The Cat's Table shimmers with the freshness of a child's wide-eyed and openhearted perspective….a yearning tribute with an almost fairytale-like aura to the memories of awe that pervade our dreams (and nightmares and fears), and the memories of sometimes unlikely affiliation and love and what we mistake as love that pervade and haunt our hearts, guide us or sometimes lead us astray.”
About the Author
MICHAEL ONDAATJE is the author of novels, a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and eleven books of poetry. His novel The English Patient won the Booker Prize; another of his novels, Anil's Ghost, won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Prix Medicis.See all Product description
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". The men at the Cat's Table, astutely observed by young Michael, while distinct in personality and behaviour, share, nonetheless, their curiosity for the happenings on the ship - one could call theirs "the gossip table" - and, more importantly, they each provide some kind of "life lesson" for the boys, be it in history, music, literature or biology. The most intriguing passenger at the table, however, is Miss Lasqueti, who appears to have insider knowledge of a very different kind. From time to time, they are joined by seventeen-year-old, beautiful and "mysterious" Emily, a distant cousin of Michael's. Given her "higher social standing" and her placement in the dining room, she can contribute intriguing news for any evolving "story". She knows, for example, much about the dangerous, heavily guarded, prisoner, who the boys have noticed during their nighttime adventures. Of course, Emily also has her secret encounters at night, overheard by Michael hiding in a lifeboat...
For the first half or so of the novel, I am simply charmed by the descriptions of the boys' hilarious or risky escapades on the ship as it moves across the Indian Ocean towards the Suez Canal. We explore the ship's "world" through a child's eyes. The episodes, told more like independent vignettes than in a contiguous narrative, succeed, nonetheless, in carrying our curiosity forward: they captures the atmosphere on ship, provide personality capsules of passengers or crew, and details of their various activities. Once closer to land, we are offered glimpses into the varying landscapes and port cities. While Michael's journey is depicted with gentleness and often lyrical descriptions, something seems to be missing in terms of the story's overall meaning and depth - at least for me. But soon enough, like entering a new section in the book, the voice of the adult Michael takes on a more prominent role. He drops hints how different episodes or people might be connected; he starts asking questions about the veracity of what we have been told, pondering the reliability of his long-term memory...
And, most engagingly, Ondaatje, while continuing to remain within the overall three-week time span of the journey, now leaves it with ease to reveal aspects of past and future of several of the central characters. These mental excursions - relating to Emily, Miss Lasqueti, Ramadhin, etc. and, last but not least, the prisoner - help us fill in gaps within earlier descriptions of episodes during the voyage. They also add an integrating layer to the narrative that I had been hoping for. Finally, they bring us also closer to the adult Michael. It is only later in life that he realizes the journey's importance as "a rite of passage"; a journey that formed him in more ways than he has acknowledged for a long time. In hindsight he can give voice to an emotion that he experienced then and many times since as he grew into an adult as "a desire that is a mixture of thrill and vertigo." Emily, when he meets her again, much later, has the better phrase for what affected them: "We all became adults before we were adults."
In the end, it does not matter anymore - at least to me - whether this book is a novel or a memoir/autobiography. It is a beautifully rendered story of growing up and living with the memories of youth. The novel's language, the tone, the images and the tender approach to his subject suggest that this is probably Ondaatje's most personal and intimate novel in many years. [Friederike Knabe]
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.
And the young men shall utterly fall," -- Isaiah 40:30 (NKJV)
It's easy to mistake this novel for an autobiography. That's how good it is.
Michael Ondaatje deals with perspective in this story, taking as his starting point the awareness of an eleven-year-old boy on a sea voyage from Colombo to be reunited with his mother in England. In such circumstances, the boy is on the bottom of the social ladder that always seems overly important on board a ship. The book's title refers to his status as one of those assigned to the dining table furthest from the Captain's table, which is, of course, the acme of social status. The cat's table, by comparison, is at the outer edges of civilization.
Due to finding two boys he can pal around with, the boy's days and nights are filled with adventures. They probe into places that adults easily overlook or disdain to consider. As a result, they spot subtle dramas at odd hours that grab their attention. Their adult companions at the cat's table are harder for the boys to figure out. However, any gestures of sympathy and friendship are quickly grasped and enjoyed.
It's a more perilous voyage than one might imagine, as youthful pranks and escapades sometimes have important consequences.
In a few places, Mr. Ondaatje moves forward into the future to reveal "what happened next" to add shadows and dimensions to the relationships among the characters on board. These sections felt a bit awkward to me by adding a little too much intrusion into the main story's pacing and timing.
The plot may seem a bit over the top to some. I disagree. I thought the plot's scale was necessary in order to explore the book's fundamental focus on the limitations of perception and perspective. The Cat's Table certainly rewards a close reading of the novel as you go. There's an element of a mystery story here that you need to pay attention to in order to fully enjoy the story on the first reading.
Yes, this book deserves at least a second reading. You'll marvel at the author's skill when you do. It's most impressive.
When was the last time you read a novel that demanded an immediate rereading? It's all too infrequent in my experience.
Want to see more reviews on this item?
Most recent customer reviews