Stacia V, October 28, 2014 (view all comments by Stacia V)
Gorgeous. Ondaatje is an absolute master of prose. Though he writes that the book is fiction, it reads almost as a mix of an autobiographical remembrance of a series of events (centered around a ship voyage from Ceylon to Britain when the protagonist is 11yo) & musings on how seemingly small events, chance encounters, & memories can alter the path of one's life. Part seems so real, so grounded in reality, yet much of the writing has the dreamy, hazy quality of memories from a long time ago, where you might wonder if you're remembering something as it happened or as you think or wanted it to happen. Some scathingly funny sections had me chuckling, while other sections were more somber & serious & had me musing....
Also, all through reading it, I kept thinking that if I could have someone who would write my diaries for me, capture a myriad of fleeting moments, I'd want Michael Ondaatje to be the one writing mine. (It doesn't matter that I don't keep a diary or a journal, or that it would be strange to have someone else putting my memories on paper through a mind meld or something; I would just want him writing, burnishing, perfecting these little life mosaics of mine.)
I will make note that I read his book "The English Patient" many years ago. While I adored his prose in that book, I didn't care for the story itself (at all). I'm so glad I gave him another try because I was just transported & blown away by "The Cat's Table". Loved it.
julieb43, December 26, 2012 (view all comments by julieb43)
While I thought Mr. Ondaatje's prose was beautiful and enjoyed reading about the young protagonist's sea journey, his exploits were depicted through the eyes of an older man looking back on his life's defining moments, which placed somewhat of a barrier between the reader and the narrator. We weren't witnessing these exploits directly but through the lens of time and memory.
The novel blended autobiography and fiction, making it difficult to know which was which. Because of the time shifts between past and present the story was sometimes difficult to follow.
I wanted to know more about the three young boys thrust together on their momentous sea journey, but we only get snippets. The novel has an ephemeral quality, much like the protagonist's moments on the ship--enjoyable but fleeting.
Steph in PDX, August 4, 2012 (view all comments by Steph in PDX)
A rare and wonderful work of fiction. The journey stays with you long after the book is finished. Young Michael's shipboard adventures from Ceylon to England continue to make me smile a year after reading this wonderful book. Although the young man's voyage comes comes to an end, I continue to wish for more reading experiences with this charming character.
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billowen_97365, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by billowen_97365)
For me, this is Michael Ondaatje's best work since the The English Patient. I was not sure a story about a teenaged boy traveling unaccompanied by boat to England would hold my interest, but, once again, Ondaatje's creation of imaginative characters, and his beautiful use of our language, created a story that quickly turned into a "can't put down" page burner. I quickly became engrossed, which made the impact of the book that much more enthralling.
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"In Ondaatje's best novel since his Booker Prize-winning The English Patient, an 11-year-old boy sets off on a voyage from Ceylon to London, where his mother awaits. Though Ondaatje tells us firmly in the 'Author's Note' that the story is 'pure invention,' the young boy is also called Michael, was also born in Ceylon, and also grows up to become a writer. This air of the meta adds a gorgeous, modern twist to the timeless story of boys having an awfully big adventure: young Michael meets two children of a similar age on the Oronsay, Cassius and Ramadhin, and together the threesome gets up to all kinds of mischief on the ship, with, and at the expense of, an eccentric set of passengers. But it is Michael's older, beguiling cousin, Emily, also onboard, who allows him glimpses of the man he is to become. As always, Ondaatje's prose is lyrical, but here it is tempered; the result is clean and full of grace, such as in this description of the children having lashed themselves to the deck to experience a particularly violent storm: 'our heads were stretched back to try to see how deep the bow would go on its next descent. Our screams unheard, even to each other, even to ourselves, even if the next day our throats were raw from yelling into that hallway of the sea.'" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
by Annie Proulx, The Guardian (UK),
"Ondaatje is justly recognized as a master of literary craft....The novel tells of a journey from childhood to the adult world, as well as a passage from the homeland to another country, something of a Dantean experience."
by Wall Street Journal,
"The Cat's Table is just as skillfully wrought as Ondaatje's magnum opus The English Patient, but its picaresque childhood adventure gives it a special power and intimacy...He is a master at creating characters, whom he chooses to present, memorably, as individuals. This choice is of a piece with the freshness and originality that are the hallmarks of The Cat's Table."
by Boston Globe,
"A joy and a lark to read....Within a few pages of the book's opening, The Cat's Table has done a miraculous thing — it has ceased to be a book, or even a piece of art. It is merely a story, unfolding before the reader's eyes, its churning motor a mystery about what it is exactly that happened on this boat....Told in short bursts of exposition so beautiful one actually feels the urge to slow the reading down, the novel shows us how the boy assembles the man."
by Evening Standard (UK),
"The Cat's Table is an exquisite example of the richness that can flourish in the gaps between fact and fiction....Ondaatje has an eerily precise grasp of the immediacy of a child's world view, and an extraordinary sense of individual destiny....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."
by Sunday Telegraph (UK),
"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."
From Michael Ondaatje: a stunning new novel — by turns poignant and electrifying — about the magical, often forbidden, discoveries of childhood and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a sea voyage.
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