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Cat's Eye
Stock image - cover art may vary
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0385260075
ISBN-13: 9780385260077
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: January, 1989
Length: 446 Pages
Weight: 1.85 pounds
Dimensions: 9.3 X 6 X 1.4 inches
Language: English

Cat's Eye

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Cat's Eye is the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betraya...
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Customer Reviews

  The greatest book ever written!

This multi-layered book about how childhood experiences impact on the rest of life's journey, tackles a subject rarely explored. This subject is how truly horrifying children's emotional cruelty to one another can be. Sure there have been lots of stories about English boys beating each other up, and inflicting nasty physical tortures on one another, but this book is a rarity because it tells of how little girls, as young as nine, inflict emotional torture on each other. There is much more to this book however. Cat's eye explores the whole life journey of a woman after these miserable childhood experiences, and her preoccupation throughout life with the "friend" who was the ringleader of these children's "reindeer games". None of what I have written so far describes how magnificent the prose and poetry of this book is. It explores many other topics such as art, marriage and old age. It is very much a novel that is primarily of interest to women which may be why it didn't win the Booker Prize. It's my favorite book in the world, except perhaps for the Robber Bride also by Atwood.
  Another winner from Margaret Atwood

CAT'S EYE by Margaret Atwood

In CAT'S EYE, Margaret Atwood tells the story of Elaine Risley, an avant-garde painter who finds herself reflecting on her tumultuous childhood when she returns to her home town of Toronto for a retrospective art exhibit. It has been many years since she set foot in Canada, where she grew up moving from place to place, due to her father's career as an entomologist. The story is told in flashbacks, as the story of her current life as a painter, on her second marriage, is told in-between the story of her childhood. Two plot lines run parallel to each other, until the very end when both the past and her present collide.

Elaine's first years were spent travelling with her family, never having a best friend. It is all she yearns for, to have a real girl friend. All she had during those early years was her brother, who as he grew older drifted away from her, leaving her alone to fend for herself. When her father finally settles down and buys a house, she begins to make her first set of real friends. However, how does one define a friend? Elaine becomes part of a group of girls that seem to be living under the steel hand of Cordelia, the ringleader. Cordelia treats them all as if she was a dictator and they were her subjects, but her treatment of Elaine is totally unforgivable. Elaine is tormented to a point where her own mental health is jeopardized, and at one point one wonders how she ever survived.

But survive she did. As Elaine tells her story, we see how she developed from a very insecure and needy young girl to a woman who understands why she made the choices she did as a child, and became a very successful painter, secure in who she was and where she had come from. The key to her understanding is her friendship with Cordelia, the young girl who treated Elaine like dirt, yet towards whom Elaine felt a type of longing for, years after she had last seen Cordelia. It is a psychologically themed book, as usual, layered upon different levels of plots and subplots and characters. Margaret Atwood is the queen of this form of novel, and it is no wonder she is one of the best storytellers today. This was my fourth Atwood novel, and I will not hesitate to read my next. Although not as complex as THE BLIND ASSASSIN, nor as prophetic as THE HANDMAID'S TALE, CAT'S EYE stands alone as a great book that is a must-read for any fan. I give this book 5 stars.

  Grueling but gripping.

Top 50. I've probably read this book three times. The first time, I was about 21 years old and maybe not far enough yet out of the hard kind of high school years that those of us glasses-wearing skinny smart loner girls have if we're not careful. One of the creepiest, scariest, saddest books I've ever encountered. Atwood gets inside the skin of a teenage girl not only scorned, but tortured by her peers. Gripping, and makes huge demands on one's empathy, compassion, and patience for the main character. Great moments of beauty, but real encounters with evil, apathy, and terror.
  My personal attatchment to Margaret E. Atwood's " Cat's Eye"

I first read Cat's Eye upon it's publication in 1989. I was twelve years old and at that time particularly enjoyed the bits about her adolescence. However, I did not fully understand the painful magic, that is the real beauty in this tale, until the age of 20. This novel is a woman's struggle to deal the demons of her past, her intense love/hate relationship with the elusive Cordelia, and her own life as a woman relating to other women. Although the main charachter, Elaine, claims to " not understand girls" and is openly heterosexual, there is a searing lesbian melodrama that lurks within her obsession with Cordelia. This subtle element provides taut frustration to the story. The grisly description of life in Toronto in the 40's and 50's is also a wonderful, perhaps educational, bonus. Ms. Atwood's clever insights into the cruelty of children, the secret relationships of women, and the workings of universe-according to Stephen Hawking, Physicist and a blurry, unaccepting and somehow unbelievable God- are truly what makes this novel an unforgettable reading experience for anyone, male or female.
  ...a sustained poem.

Being male, I found that reading this book along with my female friend helped me to appreciate it more than I would have on my own. She commented, several times, that "language and observation make this book a sustained poem" and I agreed several times. Her perspective was needed and appreciated. It is definitely a book ABOUT women and FOR women, but us dudes can get something out of it too... because it is brilliantly written.
It is not only an "Atwood" but one of the better "Atwoods"!
The author has stated that Cat's Eye is "about how girlhood traumas continue into adult life" and that is it in a nutshell.
When the painter Elaine Risley returns to Toronto for a retrospective of her work, she is confronted with the memories of her childhood... mysteries to unravel, others to tie up and lay to rest. Elaine the child, had a temperament that allowed other girls to belittle and dominate her.
In a word, she was bullied.
And no one bullied her as much as Cordelia did.
When Elaine is brought back to the geography of her past, she finds that she has to come to terms with her feelings about Cordelia... this retrospective of her WORK turns into a retrospective of her LIFE.
Through flashbacks galore, and in writing that is spare and bleeding with cut-wrist exposure, Atwood leaves no part of Elaine's wounds unsalted.
Here is a question that I think the thoughtful reader will be asked to ponder:
Does "closure" mean annihilation/renunciation of memory, or acceptance/reconciliation of memory?
Or as my friend and I put it: Does Elaine still have her Cat's Eye with her when she returns to Vancouver?

This is not a plot-driven, but a personality or character driven book. Those who think that sound-bites on T.V. are too lengthy should probably stay away from it.
Cat's Eye would be a great Book Club selection because of the discussion and opinion that it is sure to stimulate. I'm going to rate it closer to five stars than four.