Mass Market Paperbound
592 pages, 6.86 × 4.19 × 1.34 in
March 26, 1999
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 people with her grey-green eyes, opaque and glinting as metal. She can outstare anyone, and I am al
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.
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 driven by the present
"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."
"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.)
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.