Monday, June 6, 2011

book list: cat's eye

I just finished Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood (1988). After relishing The Blind Assassin, I readily jumped into Cat's Eye. The style of writing was pure Atwood, very crisp, and I recognized many of the same themes between the two novels: Toronto, miscarriage, an aging narrator looking back on her childhood, the unreliability of memory.Also, the format was quite similar, with unmarked jumps in chronology.

Cat's Eye focuses on Elaine, a painter who reminisces about her childhood and young adulthood growing up in and around Toronto with her parents, brother, and a group of friends who are cruel in the ways that only young girls can be. I was initially drawn into the novel by Atwood's characteristic hints of darkness to come, by the fact that Elaine seemed to be haunted by some mysterious happening from her childhood. I kept waiting for that disturbing hook, for this dark element relating to her brother and her friend Cordelia to be revealed, but by halfway through the novel her childhood was gone. Then we learn about twentysomething Elaine for the second half of the book. I kept thinking, maybe there's a twist at the end. But no.

I'm not necessarily begrudging of this; Atwood's writing is just as impressive as it was in The Blind Assassin. I'm not sure I'll ever have anything to criticize in that department. But as far as plot and content goes, Cat's Eye was lackluster. I didn't feel as attached to Elaine as I had felt to Iris. Cat's Eye was a meandering book,  and I think I came prepared for startling revelations and all that jazz, and there were none... It's as though Atwood kept developing the same ideas and themes, spinning them masterfully into The Blind Assassin twelve years after Cat's Eye was published.

I would recommend that Atwood fans read this, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to a friend who was looking for a book. To them, I'd recommend The Blind Assassin, of course.

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