From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale
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 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 form her haunting memories. Disturbing, humorous, and compassionate—and a finalist for the Booker Prize—Cat’s Eye is a breathtaking novel of a woman grappling with the tangled knot of her life.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
If The Handmaid’s Tale is a brilliant-but-bitter pill to swallow, Cat’s Eye is practically a tonic. Margaret Atwood’s entrancing novel about the exquisite absurdity of being female focuses on Elaine Risley, a fortysomething painter preparing for a dreaded midlife retrospective. Flashbacks tell the story of Elaine’s younger years, starting with her as an eight-year-old child being raised in social isolation by her bohemian parents. When the family moves to Toronto, Elaine gets her first exposure to the odd habits and devastating cruelty of other little girls. Like a preadolescent anthropologist, she’s astounded by each new discovery—sweater sets, penises, pageboys, chintz—in ways that are heartbreaking and often completely hilarious.
Herself the daughter of a Canadian forest entomologist, Atwood writes in an autobiographical vein about Elaine Risley, a middle-aged Canadian painter (and daughter of a forest entomologist) who is thrust into an extended reconsideration of her past while attending a retrospective show of her work in Toronto, a city she had fled years earlier in order to leave behind painful memories. Most pointedly, Risley reflects on the strangeness of her long relations with Cordelia, a childhood friend whose cruelties, dealt lavishly to Risley, helped hone her awareness of our inveterate appetite for destruction even while we love, and are understood as characteristically femininea betrayal of other women that masks a ferocious betrayal of oneself. Atwood's portrayal of the friendship gives the novel its fraught and mysterious center, but her critical assessment of Cordelia and the ``whole world of girls and their doings'' also takes the measure of a coercive, conformist society (not quite as extreme as in the futuristic The Handmaid's Tale ). Emerging ``the stronger'' for her latecoming understanding of herself, Risley in the final pages rises above the ties that bound her, transcendently alive to the possibilities of ``light, shining out in the midst of nothing.'' BOMC main selection.
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I read this book over 30 years ago and it is one of my favorite books ever written