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From the Publisher
In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship
bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the "cat's
table"-as far from the Captain's Table as can be-with a ragtag
group of "insignificant" adults and two other boys, Cassius and
Ramadhin. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean,
through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys tumble
from one adventure to another, bursting all over the place like
freed mercury. But there are other diversions as well: one man
talks with them about jazz and women, another opens the door to the
world of literature. The narrator's elusive, beautiful cousin Emily
becomes his confidante, allowing him to see himself "with a distant
eye" for the first time, and to feel the first stirring of desire.
Another Cat's Table denizen, the shadowy Miss Lasqueti, is perhaps
more than what she seems. And very late every night, the boys spy
on a shackled prisoner, his crime and his fate a galvanizing
mystery that will haunt them forever.
As the narrative moves between the decks and holds of the ship and
the boy's adult years, it tells a spellbinding story-by turns
poignant and electrifying-about the magical, often forbidden,
discoveries of childhood and a lifelong journey that begins
unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.
From the Hardcover edition.