Cat's Eye

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Cat's Eye

by Margaret Atwood

Doubleday Canada | March 26, 1999 | Mass Market Paperbound

Cat's Eye is rated 4.375 out of 5 by 16.
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.

Format: Mass Market Paperbound

Dimensions: 592 pages, 6.86 × 4.19 × 1.34 in

Published: March 26, 1999

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0770428231

ISBN - 13: 9780770428235

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Cat's Eye: A Review from The Bibliotaphe Closet To decide to enter the fictional world created by Atwood is to willingly submerge yourself into the psyche of her protagonist – because that’s the power of her work. Regardless, of how unwilling you think you may be in becoming drawn into her story and/or stories—I pluralize this because she usually has more layers than one—you will have no choice, but become hypnotized or embodied by the world she creates in her fiction because the voice of her narrative is always so strong. When I say strong, I’m not referring to the tone of voice or the strength of the characters themselves—though this may very well be true of them—I’m referring to the power of her narrative because the voice she writes in—this inner dialogue—is able to excavate marvellous truths with such clarity, originality, and precision. Atwood is able to write with not only keen insight and provocative subject matter, she isn’t afraid to offend you with jarring, raw imagery, language, or context. It’s intentional in so far as she deliberately resists being conformed by stereotypical ideas or dogmas. What you expect to happen in novels in how characters are meant to evolve does not happen in the same way in Atwood’s work. The rest comes from a well of either brutal honesty and truth on the part of the writer or the complete professional wizardry performed in the “magic” that Atwood creates with the written word – or both, except there are no tricks with Atwood. Magic denotes supernatural forces that flow out from nowhere, giving neither its master control nor credit. Atwood’s artistry is magical in that she cannot be duplicated. But her manipulation of the language, her word power and passion for it, and story writing and “showing” – not “telling” is accurately and expertly devised. It is without a doubt, a natural, gifted, and crafted talent. And a dedication to doing the work. To read the rest of my review, you may visit my blog, The Bibliotaphe's Closet: http://zaraalexis.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/cats-eye-more-than-just-a-marble/
Date published: 2012-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A story that lingers. This story launches as a series of vignettes. Elaine Risley, now a famed artist, has returned to Toronto for her showing, and so come the memories. You see her growing up, as a child, as a young woman and as a mature adult and mother. And as usual, that small little something about Atwood's writing, keeps you turning the page, wanting to know more each step of the way. Elaine's recollections are so vivid that you feel certain about this character, thanks to the details and well woven story lines that disguise a fiction from a true story, only a barrier that Margaret Atwood could blur.
Date published: 2010-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Raw and Honest This is a novel written by one of Canada’s most prolific authors. Heralded as one of Atwood’s finest stories, Cat’s Eye takes a deep, detailed and sometimes unsettling look at the psychologically scarring passage of growing up as a female. This story spoke to my heart right away, and I was excited to think that there is actually a book that can describe the true experience of learning how other women think and trying to discover who you are. This would be a great story for any male to read to truly understand that while they grew up with a constant threat of physical abuse, women are plagued by the constant threat of psychological abuse. By effortlessly weaving the text from past to present, Atwood explores the various types of relationships women can have, whether it be between mothers and daughters, lovers or simply friends. There is much focus on the dark and deceptive friendship of our protagonist Elaine, and the antagonist, Cordelia. Cordelia is Elaine’s friend or enemy, depending on the situation. She is extremely strong, hardheaded and loves to torture Elaine, who is naïve, shy and only wants to be accepted. This combination is dangerous and Elaine pays the price. I found this account of childhood frighteningly real and I couldn’t put the novel down, as I was reliving a childhood that I know many women have encountered. Elaine is different. She’s unique and she cannot help it. But being unique and young is the worst thing you can be, and you will try anything to belong. The damage that Elaine goes through is never truly resolved and it is left up to the reader to decide if Elaine has ever gotten over it. How we deal with issues from our childhood really does effect the people that we are today. Those years are so important to our adult development, and that is why they can be so destructive and powerful. When the power shifts for Elaine in the novel, and she should be able to enjoy it, there is always something holding her back. One of my favourite quotes from this novel sums up the lessons that Elaine learns in her life. “Women collect grievances, hold grudges and change shape. They pass hard, legitimate judgments, unlike the purblind guesses of men fogged with romanticism and ignorance and bias and wish. Women know too much, they can neither be deceived nor trusted. I can understand why men are afraid of them, as they are frequently accused of being.’’
Date published: 2010-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nothing Short of Amazing This book is incredible. Margaret Atwood has yet again managed to craft characters so real and so empathetic that the reader is simply drawn in. When she is remembering her childhood and all the petty school yard politics that went with it, the reader is there with her. We have all lived through that. And Atwood has managed to capture that perfectly. That is perhaps the shining crown on this novel, the realness of it. Every sentence, every word is placed with meaning, with intent. And what we are left with is a masterpiece.I highly recommend it! Another amazing book from the Queen of Canadian Literature.
Date published: 2008-06-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Occasioanlly Tedious, But Worth It It's a difficult novel to get started on and the ending was a little abrupt for my tastes. Outside of that, I found it a really interesting look at a Toronto that no longer exists and most people now barely remember. I also loved the impact of telling a story about how much children are affected by others, often without realizing it. Atwood tells a really interesting tale and there's many insightful gems in there that make it worth slogging through the first 100 pages.
Date published: 2008-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Book This is an amazing book. The writing is wonderful, the characters seem so real you feel you know them and you get a real feel for the place and time. I highly recommend this book.
Date published: 2007-11-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Atwood is a brilliant author Atwood has a rare gift: the ability to tell a story that reaches out. Most readers will be able to relate to Elaine, at given points, throughout her life. Atwood asks the questions, through Elaine, that many individuals ask themselves . . .although she has the talent for finding the perfect words.
Date published: 2005-07-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Odd, unusual, and quite different from the normal! This book was a long one, for me at least and I'm not much of a reader. At first, I really didn't like the book because it was too weird, too detailed, too confusing, but as I read on, I know there are not many books like the Cat's Eye. I think I has somehow changed me and made me think more. I belive that someone Margaret Atwood knew or even herself had to have gone through what Elaine did other wise could such a story be written with such detail and knowledge of what happened to the last inch of detail. Interesting, and unusual but not bad. Recommended for anyone who wants a challenge.
Date published: 2001-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Do yourself a favour This is the one I keep loaning to friends who return it with heaps of praise for Atwood. This is one of her finest (and most of her books are superb) and my personal favorite. I have read it three times and I almost never reread novels. Do yourself a favour and read this book.
Date published: 2000-12-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great! Margaret Atwood did a great job portraying such a detailed life. She made Elaine and everything realistic, and I love being able to relate to a good book. I would recommend this to anyone!
Date published: 2000-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from oh holy wow this is a great book. a fine retrospective of an aging artist's life as she recounts the small tortures of childhood and what it meant to be a girl in the 1940s. also an intricate detailing of gender roles and re-learning who you are in an alien environment. i so totally recommend this!
Date published: 2000-10-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Classic Atwood This novel tends to have a slow pace in the begining but picks up well towards the end. I didn't think much of this book at the start, but as i read on, a beautiful story was revealed. It's universal metaphors of childhood expereinces keep you locked in though for days.
Date published: 2000-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my Favorites! I love this book! I have read it three or four times all at different stages of my life. Atwood really captures what it means to be a girl, a young woman and a middle aged woman. She does so with such honesty and disclosure. She uses poetry and symbolism to impact the significance of the plot. I would suggest this book to almost anyone. Atwood is probably the greatest Canadian writer of our time.
Date published: 2000-02-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thought prevoking as usual Margaret Atwood has once again left her creative and poignant mark with a book that diplays the truth of how kids can be so innocent, yet so cruel. Her inspiring detail and avid descriptions make it hard to put this book down until the very end.
Date published: 1999-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Cat's Eye What an incredible book! The element of poignancy is exceptionally powerful, as Atwood tells a story of growing up that many of us can relate to, and that can be quite haunting. For those of us who reside in Ontario, specifically Toronto there is also the geographical reference that adds real meaning to her tales. An absolutely irresistible read.
Date published: 1999-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic I don't remember where I got this book from.. One day I just opened it up and began reading. I loved every second of it, from collecting bugs with her family to seeing the Virgin Mary.. What a charming little girl and what an interesting woman she turned into. I couldn't put it down.. I was very surprised, I'm not too hot about her other novels.
Date published: 1999-05-20

– More About This Product –

Cat's Eye

by Margaret Atwood

Format: Mass Market Paperbound

Dimensions: 592 pages, 6.86 × 4.19 × 1.34 in

Published: March 26, 1999

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0770428231

ISBN - 13: 9780770428235

Read from the Book

1.   Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. If you can bend space you can bend time also, and if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backwards in time and exist in two places at once.   It was my brother Stephen who told me that, when he wore his ravelling maroon sweater to study in and spent a lot of time standing on his head so that the blood would run down into his brain and nourish it. I didn’t understand what he meant, but maybe he didn’t explain it very well. He was already moving away from the imprecision of words.   But I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another. You don’t look back along time but down through it, like water. Sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing. Nothing goes away.   2. “Stephen says time is not a line,” I say. Cordelia rolls her eyes, as I knew she would.   “So?” she says. This answer pleases both of us. It puts the nature of time in its place, and also Stephen, who calls us “the teenagers,” as if he himself is not one.   Cordelia and I are riding on the streetcar, going downtown, as we do on winter Saturdays. The streetcar is muggy with twice-breathed air and the smell of wool. Cordelia sits with nonchalance, nudging me with her elbow now and then, staring blankly at the other peop
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From the Publisher

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.

About the Author

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than twenty-five books, including fiction, poetry, and essays. Her most recent works include the bestselling novels Alias Grace and The Robber Bride and the collections Wilderness Tips and Good Bones and Simple Murders. She lives in Toronto.

Author Interviews

Q: What about your early life might have influenced you to become a writer? A: I grew up in the north under rather isolated circumstances, spending most of my early life in a forest with no electricity, no running water, without any radio or movies, and before television. I was read to a lot as a child. There were always books in the house, and they were my entertainment. They were what you did when it was raining, they were the escape, they were the extended family. So it was a natural step from loving books to writing them. Q: Cat’s Eye is perceived as your most personal novel. Is there any truth to that statement? A: In some ways, yes. Cat’s Eye draws on more semi-autobiographical elements than any of my other novels—the time period and the place, primarily. But in many other ways, it’s fiction. Q: What would you say is the novel’s primary theme? A: Cat’s Eye is about how girlhood traumas continue into adult life. Girls have a culture marke by secrets and shifting alliances, and these can cause a lot of distress. The girl who was your friend yesterday is not your friend today, but you don’t know why. These childhood power struggles color friendships betwen women. I’ve asked women if they fear criticism more from men or from other women. The overwhelming answer was: "From women." Q: You now have thirty books behind you. Could you have written this novel when you were younger? A: By middle age you have a past with a discernible shape, whereas young people are
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Editorial Reviews

"A literary event!"
— The Toronto Star

"A brilliant, three-dimensional mosaic…the story of Elaine''s childhood is so real and heartbreaking you want to stand up in your seat and cheer."
— The Boston Sunday Globe

"Nightmarish, evocative, heartbreaking."
— The New York Times Book Review

"The best book in a long time on female friendships…Cat''s Eye is remarkable, funny, and serious, brimming with uncanny wisdom."
— Cosmopolitan

"No reader will fail to be moved, even to tears, by this novel. It is poignant and lingering."
— Aritha van Herk, Calgary Herald

"Lyrical, startling in its mastery of language, compelling in its handling of memory and forgetting, in its understanding of the ravages of the unransomed past."
— London Free Press

"Irresistible. . . . This book is about life for all of us."
— The Times (U.K.)

Bookclub Guide

1. What does Margaret Atwood''s novel Cat''s Eye say about the nature of childhood and the development of adolescent friendship? Is there a gender-influenced difference in cruelty between boys as opposed to that expressed between girls? At what point does adolescent meanness become pathological?

2. In the opening line of the novel, the narrator, artist Elaine Risley, who returns to the city of her birth for a retrospective of her painting, observes: "Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space . . . if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once." How do you interpret this statement? Why does Elaine return to Toronto and what does she hope to accomplish there? Was the trip necessary? If so, why? What role does this return play in the structure of the novel?

3. Elaine is haunted by Cordelia, her "best friend" and childhood tormentor. All predators must have a motive. How did Cordelia benefit from tormenting Elaine? What weakness in Elaine made her particularly vulnerable to Cordelia? Why does Cordelia continue to play such importance in Elaine''s adult life?

4. Discuss the impact of the type of parenting received by Elaine, Cordelia, and their third friend, Grace. At one point Elaine''s mother tells her that she does not have to be with the girls that are tormenting her. Is her mother in any way responsible for what happened to Elaine? What role do you feel parents should play in helping resolve childhood conflicts or in protecting their children?

5. Early in the novel, Elaine is warned by her first new friend, Carol, not to go down into the ravine: "There might be men there." Discuss the importance of this warning, taking into account the later incident between the girls at the ravine. What does this say about our ability to apprehend danger? In which of her other novels does Atwood explore the nature of evil and its relationship to gender?

6. Why do you think Elaine became an artist? What is the significance of that choice? Do artists use life experiences in ways people do not?

7. In her review of Cat''s Eye, Judith Thurman suggests that a connection exists between sex and childhood games. Discuss this, as well as the significance of the book''s title.

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