The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje

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...strike me, in their forced bravado, as strictly from the imagination and the obsessions of the author. I could be wrong. What is not in doubt is that the cumulative effect of the episodes on-board this ship makes for a convincing and genuinely moving narrative.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the “cat’s table”—as far from the Captain’s Table as can be—with a ragtag group of “insignificant” adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another, bursting all over the place like freed mercury. But there are other diversions as well: one man talks with them about jazz and women, another opens the door to the world of literature. The narrator’s elusive, beautiful cousin Emily becomes his confidante, allowing him to see himself “with a distant eye” for the first time, and to feel the first stirring of desire. Another Cat’s Table denizen, the shadowy Miss Lasqueti, is perhaps more than what she seems. And very late every night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner, his crime and his fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.
 
As the narrative moves between the decks and holds of the ship and the boy’s adult years, it tells a spellbinding story—by turns poignant and electrifying—about the magical, often forbidden, discoveries of childhood and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Michael Ondaatje

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Michael Ondaatje is the author of eleven books of poetry, a memoir, and six novels, including The Cat's Table, coming in October 2011. He lives in Toronto. Pico Iyer is the author of two novels and seven works of nonfiction. His new book, The Man Within My Head, comes out in 2012.
 
Published October 4, 2011 by Vintage. 290 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure, Crafts, Hobbies & Home, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Cat's Table
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Martin Rubin on Oct 01 2011

He is rather 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."

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Sep 02 2011

...strike me, in their forced bravado, as strictly from the imagination and the obsessions of the author. I could be wrong. What is not in doubt is that the cumulative effect of the episodes on-board this ship makes for a convincing and genuinely moving narrative.

Read Full Review of The Cat's Table | See more reviews from National Post arts

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