The Cats Table

The Cats Table

3.6 (23,575 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England - a 'castle that was to cross the sea'. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly 'Cat's Table' with an eccentric group of grown-ups 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 become involved in the worlds and stories of the adults around them, tumbling from one adventure and delicious discovery to another, 'bursting all over the place like freed mercury'. And at night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner - his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever. As the narrative moves from the decks and holds of the ship and the boy's adult years, it tells a spellbinding story about the difference between the magical openness of childhood and the burdens of earned understanding - about a life-long journey that began unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage, when all on board were 'free of the realities of the earth'.
With the ocean liner a brilliant microcosm for the floating dream of childhood, "The Cat's Table" is a vivid, poignant and thrilling book, full of Ondaatje's trademark set-pieces and breathtaking images: a story told with a child's sense of wonder by a novelist at the very height of his powers.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 140 x 222 x 28mm | 472g
  • Jonathan Cape Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0224093614
  • 9780224093613
  • 80,095

Flap copy

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England - a 'castle that was to cross the sea'. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly 'Cat's Table' with an eccentric group of grown-ups 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 become involved in the worlds and stories of the adults around them, tumbling from one adventure and delicious discovery to another, 'bursting all over the place like freed mercury'. And at night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner - his crime and fate a galvanising 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 about the difference between the magical openness of childhood and the burdens of earned understanding - about a lifelong journey that began unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage, when all on board were 'free of the realities of the earth'.

With the ocean liner a brilliant microcosm for the floating dream of childhood, The Cat's Table is a vivid, poignant and thrilling book, full of Ondaatje's trademark set-pieces and breathtaking images: a story told with a child's sense of wonder by a novelist at the very height of his powers.
show more

Review Text

"One of the most admirable and enthralling literary novels of the year"
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Review quote

#1 - "Maclean's "Bestseller
#1 - "Globe & Mail" Bestseller
A "Globe and Mail" Best Book
A "New York Times" Notable Book
"A tour de force....startling, enchanting."
--"Maclean's"
"Ondaatje slowly unravels a tapestry of images and dramatic (and exotic) tableaux.... [He] creates fascinating visual and sensual effects."
--"Toronto Star "
"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."
--"Montreal Gazette"
"A convincing and genuinely moving narrative."
--"National Post"
"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."
--"Chatelaine"
"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
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About Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka in 1943. In the 1950s he moved to England, and went to school in south London. In 1962 he emigrated to Canada, where he has lived ever since. His books include his memoir, Running in the Family, numerous collections of poetry, and five novels - including The English Patient which won the 1992 Booker Prize.
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Rating details

23,575 ratings
3.6 out of 5 stars
5 17% (4,070)
4 40% (9,450)
3 31% (7,259)
2 9% (2,161)
1 3% (635)
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