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Release Date: January, 1998
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 betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman--but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, Cat's Eye is a breathtaking novel of a woman grappling with the tangled knot of her life.
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Posted by J. T. Towers on 8/26/2005
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.
Another winner from Margaret Atwood
Posted by Ratmammy on 9/28/2003
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.
My personal attatchment to Margaret E. Atwood's " Cat's Eye"
Posted by Christi on 7/26/2000
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.
Posted by Marius Nell on 10/20/2000
Generally, I like to be analytical and logical when writing about literature. This is what we are taught at university, after all. This novel, however, left me so astounded that I couldn't even talk about it to friends. I finished it more than six months ago and, in a way, have been grappling with it ever since. Scenes from it seem to randomly invade my mind. Surely if a mere work of fiction can hold this power for such a length of time, it must be worth more than the sum of its parts.
The only point I really wish to make about it, is that there should be no gender discrimination in recommending this novel. Why anybody should feel that it is meant for a female audience is beyond me. Within the extremely rich layers of its narrative, the novel reveals essential truths about the way in which the process of growing up affects everybody. The fact that the main characters are women is simply not relevant beyond the fact that the narrator herself is a woman. Margaret Atwood is far too great a writer to have confined to such banalities.
"Haunting" is possibly the best way to describe this work and I am sure that every perceptive reader will be haunted by the way in which Elaine's experiences are eventually reflected in her art. It is, quite simply, one of the greatest novels I have ever read. But then again, every Atwood novel I read (and I have read them all) just confirms my opinion that she is one of the greatest writers of all time.