The Cat's Table

by Michael Ondaatje

McClelland & Stewart | August 30, 2011 | Hardcover

The Cat's Table is rated 3.1111 out of 5 by 9.
From Michael Ondaatje: an electrifying new novel, by turns thrilling and deeply moving -- one of his most vividly rendered and compelling works of fiction to date.

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly "Cat''s Table" with an eccentric and unforgettable group of grownups and two other boys. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys find themselves immersed in the worlds and stories of the adults around them. At night they spy on a shackled prisoner -- his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.

Looking back from deep within adulthood, and gradually moving back and forth from the decks and holds of the ship to the years that follow the narrator unfolds a spellbinding and layered tale about the magical, often forbidden discoveries of childhood and the burdens of earned understanding, about a life-long journey that began unexpectedly with a sea voyage.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 288 pages, 8.66 × 5.91 × 0.97 in

Published: August 30, 2011

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0771068646

ISBN - 13: 9780771068645

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 1 out of 5 by from a clear pass! being an avid reader 4-6 books a month I feel I am OK in giving my opinion. I enjoyed the English Patient and was looking forward to reading the cat's table. I was actually 40plus in line at the library!!! Waiting for it. What a disappointment! I still don't know what the point of this book was. When I was 1/3rd of the way through I thought OK it has to get better. At 3/4 I thought OK maybe I am missing something. At the end I thought WHY!!!! did I waste my time. Just because it has Ondaatje on the cover does NOT mean its going to be entertaining! or worth the time to read. It is definitely not my pick!
Date published: 2012-03-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from OK, but not the best introduction to the author ... I had heard so much praise for Michael Ondaatje’s work, especially The English Patient, that I just had to pick up his latest work, The Cat’s Table, when I saw it on the bestseller shelf at the local library. Already having a few of his books on my shelf at home, I figured I’d start with a book I didn’t own. Naturally. Way to reduce my TBR pile! Ha ha … not. Being my first read by Ondaatje, I really didn’t know what to expect, so I was a little confused as I read through The Cat’s Table as to what exactly it was about. The story is about young boy’s journey on an ocean liner in the 1950′s on a journey to England to see his mother who he hasn’t seen in years. He’s 11-years-old on the journey, but the real journey not only encompasses the boat ride, but decades. Looking back on the trip now in adulthood, he tells his tales of coming-of-age on that ship. I really didn’t know what to think of this novel. I knew that Ondaatje was a big deal, but I really didn’t feel connected to this book. I thought his writing was absolutely beautiful at times, but I didn’t get the point of this book. I felt it was trying too hard to span many genres, from the coming-of-age to mystery, and with all of the flashbacks (or flashforwards?) I found myself confused as I read. Once I finished reading, I wondered what was supposed to be so great about the novel. Even now, after reading some reviews on it, I still don’t really get what it was about. I really enjoyed the parts of the young boy on the ship and his escapades with his young shipmates, but once the mystery part came into play, I found myself losing interest. Too many genres made the book not as cohesive as I would have liked. Perhaps if you have read some of Ondaatje’s work in the past, you might enjoy this novel, but it just wasn’t for me.
Date published: 2012-03-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointment!!!! I was very disappointed in this book. It was boring and I want my money back. Nothing interesting or spell binding...very disappointing for this author.
Date published: 2012-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful! Amazing.
Date published: 2011-12-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Liked it! I thought this book was brilliant, and the narrative was wonderful. The whole thing was interesting to view from the eyes of a young child. "The Cat's table" was a smart read, and I'd buy it again!
Date published: 2011-12-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from No Need to Read this Book No need to rush out and purchase The Cat's Table . Whether you choose to read it or not, you will not lose out either way. I am glad that my copy was from the library. While Ondaatje takes pains to tell us that the book is fictional,it reads like an impressionistic memoir. Our eleven year old ( and sometimes adult) narrator Michael tells the tale of traveling by ship from Colombo Sri Lanka to the UK.The cat's table is where the least privileged sit to eat meals. The book is not a demanding read,nor does it give much back.The story moves very slowly, there are some interesting characters and small events, but overall The Cat's Table is a somewhat boring read.The supposed climax is a rather large anti-climax. I certainly enjoy many slow paced reads,but I expect there to be something of interest to ponder on from such a novel. This was not the case with The Cat's Table. Quoting from the book jacket"The Cat's Table is a thrilling, deeply moving novel" , I must admit that I found the book to be neither. Why is the book on the Giller LongList? Because the author is Michael Ondjaatje
Date published: 2011-12-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intriguing Characters The Cat's Table reminded me of my youth, exploring the world of adults and their mysterious ways. Ondaatje writes a gently exotic tale of a long oceanic voyage. He illustrates the connection between adult relationships and childhood experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed the diverse characters and the sometimes hilarious antics of the boys on the ship. This book left me with a touch of sadness, laughter, and wistfulness.
Date published: 2011-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Memories as fluid as an ocean Michael Ondaatje’s admirers await his books with patient anticipation. In return, Ondaatje crafts works such as The Cat’s Table, one of those rare literary achievements that combines page-turning storytelling with perfectly shaped prose. Each word and each scene has been chosen with care, and the book comes together in a harmony of ideas, memories, and narratives. I say narratives because The Cat’s Table encompasses many stories: in its seemingly straightforward telling of a boy’s 21 days on a ship bound from Sri Lanka to England, its deeply complex characters offer glimpses of chance encounters and intermingled lives. The book is a palimpsest, the story of an 11-year-old boy named Michael, told by his older self who happens to be a well-known writer, written by Michael Ondaatje, who includes a disclaimer that while he took a similar trip as a boy, this work is purely fictional. These three Michaels intersect with one another in a memory play seen through the lens of the ship. The language and reflections are mature: this is the understanding only an adult can bring when he looks back at himself years later, trying to come to grips with how the smallest of actions can ripple through many lives over many years. The titular Cat’s Table is the opposite of the Captain’s Table, the least prestigious spot in the dining room. The characters who gather around it pass through young Michael’s shipbound existence, from his two contemporaries who raise hell with him all over the ship to the adults at the table. You get the sense that an entire novel could be devoted to any one of these subsidiary characters, even though they figure in only small ways in Michael’s story. Without ever belabouring a description, Ondaatje fills the reader’s world with the sights, sounds, and smells of the ship and the ports it slips through. He also inverts the idea of the ship as a closed-off setting, creating a wonderland with myriad decks and enough forbidden places to keep a gang of three boys busy for weeks. It is peopled by ailing millionaires, live pigeons, unseen violinists, and the prisoner, a mysterious figure whose close-guarded nightly walks become a focal point for the boys, giving their days structure and their imaginations fodder. And there is always the sense that there is more to see, more to hear and overhear, than anything Michael and his friends can comprehend. Memory and time are as fluid as the ocean the ship traverses, a moment in childhood with momentum but no fixed address. The narrative is overall a linear one, starting at the beginning of the journey, ending when the Oronsay arrives in England, but this is also a collection of stories. As the older Michael reflects on a particular character, events jump forward in time, following that character’s interaction with Michael throughout the years before looping back to pick up where we left off on the ship. We arrive at the end of the book a little wiser, a little changed, just as the characters at the Cat’s Table are. Without falling into the triteness of a typical coming-of-age story, The Cat’s Table offers a refined, note-perfect journey of how three weeks can alter the course of lives. I genuinely cared for these people and their misadventures, and when it was time to depart for other shores, I was left hoping that I would run into them again. ~*~ Like this excerpt? Read the full review, plus other book reviews, at http://editorialeyes.wordpress.com
Date published: 2011-10-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Nice read I had never read anything by this author and decided to pick up this book based on the publicity that the book was getting. In all honesty I was expecting it to be a more difficult read than it was. The chapters are very short, sometimes less than a page and about half-way through the book the author will start to jump into the future and then come back to the voyage. In all though that didn't end up to be as confusing as you would expect it to be. The book is narrated by a young boy who is around 12 when the voyage is undertaken. He is being sent from his home in Sri Lanka (Columbo) to England where his mother is. Along the way he teams up with two other young boys around his age and they wreck havoc amongst the ship (throwing chairs into the pool, spying on other passengers, exploring forbidden areas of the ship, etc). There are some sub-plots (a prisoner who they watch every night, other members of their dining table) but the main story is very direct. I would defintely recommend this book to anyone whose eye wanders towards it.
Date published: 2011-10-07

– More About This Product –

The Cat's Table

by Michael Ondaatje

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 288 pages, 8.66 × 5.91 × 0.97 in

Published: August 30, 2011

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0771068646

ISBN - 13: 9780771068645

Read from the Book

He wasn’t talking . He was looking from the window of the car all the way. Two adults in the front seat spoke quietly under their breath. He could have listened if he wanted to, but he didn’t. For a while, at the section of the road where the river sometimes flooded, he could hear the spray of water at the wheels. They entered the Fort and the car slipped silently past the post office building and the clock tower. At this hour of the night there was barely any traffic in Colombo. They drove out along Reclamation Road, passed St. Anthony’s Church, and after that he saw the last of the food stalls, each lit with a single bulb. Then they entered a vast open space that was the harbour, with only a string of lights in the distance along the pier. He got out and stood by the warmth of the car.   He could hear the stray dogs that lived on the quays barking out of the darkness. Nearly everything around him was invisible, save for what could be seen under the spray of a few sulphur lanterns—watersiders pulling a procession of baggage wagons, some families huddled together. They were all beginning to walk towards the ship.   He was eleven years old that night when, green as he could be about the world, he climbed aboard the first and only ship of his life. It felt as if a city had been added to the coast, better lit than any town or village. He went up the gangplank, watching only the path of his feet—nothing ahead of him existed—and contin
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From the Publisher

From Michael Ondaatje: an electrifying new novel, by turns thrilling and deeply moving -- one of his most vividly rendered and compelling works of fiction to date.

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly "Cat''s Table" with an eccentric and unforgettable group of grownups and two other boys. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys find themselves immersed in the worlds and stories of the adults around them. At night they spy on a shackled prisoner -- his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.

Looking back from deep within adulthood, and gradually moving back and forth from the decks and holds of the ship to the years that follow the narrator unfolds a spellbinding and layered tale about the magical, often forbidden discoveries of childhood and the burdens of earned understanding, about a life-long journey that began unexpectedly with a sea voyage.

About the Author

MICHAEL ONDAATJE is the author of novels, a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and eleven books of poetry. His novel The English Patient won the Booker Prize; another of his novels, Anil''s Ghost, won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Prix Medicis.

Editorial Reviews

#1 – Maclean’s Bestseller #1 – Globe & Mail Bestseller A Globe and Mail Best Book  A New York Times Notable Book LONGLIST 2013 – IMPAC Dublin Literary Award “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&rsqu
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