29 August 2011

Review: Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

I recently revisited Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye by listening to the unabridged audio edition (Random House Audio; 16 h, 31 min) read by Kimberly Farr. Instead of writing a full review of a book I first read about twenty years ago, I thought I'd give you a quick summary and then share some of my thoughts.

Feminist artist Elaine Risley, returns to her childhood city of Toronto for a retrospective exhibit of her work. In the down time between dealing with the logistics of the show, she wanders the city and reflects on her troubled childhood, her difficult young adulthood, and the surprise of finding herself old enough and established enough to put together a retrospective show.

Elaine recalls her life in pieces,

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. (p. 1)
It is the "sometimes nothing" that is particularly problematic for Elaine. Throughout her life, she is periodically startled by a gap in her memory, a time period that seems lost. What she learns, long after her life has settled into comfort, is that she was the victim of childhood bullies who sometimes acted as friends, confusing the young Elaine who wasn't prepared for how cruel girls can be.

Elaine's current trip to Toronto is not what triggers her memories of that incident. But being back in the city causes her to think of those girls and how her relationship with them hardened her, shaped her ideas of feminist issues, and even informed her art.

As many have said before me, Atwood captured the disturbing truth of many girlhood friendships and how the origin of such meanness and competition was often found in the girls' mothers and in the generations of women before them. Atwood was born in 1939, and when she writes of friendships, sexual relationships, gender, motherhood, religion, and opportunities, she speaks to all women who came of age in the twentieth-century. Cat's Eye would make a great book club read, especially for a group that includes multiple generations.

Cat's Eye at Powell's
Cat's Eye at Book Depository
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Published by Anchor Books, 1988
ISBN-13: 9780385491020
Source: Audiobook edition: Review (see review policy)
My full audio review was written for AudioFile magazine.
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

20 comments:

Sandy Nawrot 8/29/11, 6:59 AM  

I guess nothing has changed much, except technology. Mothers aren't always the problem, but often they are. Don't think I don't keep that in my mind every time I open my mouth!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 8/29/11, 7:15 AM  

I have several Atwood books (this one too) unread. I like the sound of this one. Wasn't aware an audio was available - I should check the library.

I just finished Bel Canto (audio) but haven't reviewed it yet.

Once again, Thanks for your thoughts of concern for me during Hurricane Irene; I appreciate that.

Beth Hoffman 8/29/11, 9:19 AM  

I meant to read this a long time ago but never got around to it. Your review is terrific and now I'll have to move this book up on my list!

Zibilee 8/29/11, 9:24 AM  

I have only read a smattering of Atwood, and although I do have this book, I have not read it yet. I think the way Atwood handles bullying and twisted friendships in this book sounds very interesting, and the book would probably make me reconsider some of the issues that I had growing up. Very nice review. I need to read this one soon.

Heather 8/29/11, 9:28 AM  

I finally finished my first Atwood this year (Oryx & Crake) but she still intimidates the heck out of me. I didn't know there was an audio of this book and you make it sound really good. I'm going to check and see if the library has it!

Barbara 8/29/11, 9:45 AM  

I think no matter what generation we are, we've either been bullied or known someone who was. Of course, none of us would be bullies, no way! This book sounds like something I would enjoy. Even in old age, I remember being bullied and how it made me feel.

Julie P. 8/29/11, 11:50 AM  

We read this one for my book club a few years ago. It was only okay for me. It did generate some good discussion though.

Margot 8/29/11, 12:28 PM  

I read my first Atwood book last year and I'm ready for another one. This one looks like it would keep me thinking for a long time.

Alex 8/29/11, 12:57 PM  

Cat's Eye is one of my very favorite Atwood books. Thanks for reminding about this book, which I haven't read in so long.

bermudaonion 8/29/11, 1:35 PM  

It sounds like girls' friendships haven't changed much over the years, and that makes me rather sad. This sounds like a book I'd like.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) 8/29/11, 2:18 PM  

Wow, this looks REALLY good. I really haven't gotten to Atwood, yet, though she's been put in my direction many times. Guess it's time to get on that, eh?

Audra 8/29/11, 3:47 PM  

Atwood novels are so hit-and-miss for me -- some I love, others I don't. But the setting of this sounds good -- I do enjoy feminist fiction so I might have to give this a try! (Also, I heart the cover.)

Margaret @ BooksPlease 8/30/11, 2:28 AM  

I read this book years ago. I remember that I found it difficult to get into at first - but then I loved it. Fortunately my own experience was nothing like it, but my granddaughter has some rather cruel 'friends' who sometimes want to know her and at other times are so mean. Nothing really changes - sad!

Serena 8/30/11, 8:17 AM  

Sadly, I have not read any Atwood. This does sound like an excellent book club selection. Thanks for the review.

Dorte H 8/30/11, 3:47 PM  

Ah, this one sounds like Atwood in great shape! Perhaps I should order it for our school...

JoAnn 8/30/11, 6:13 PM  

Cat's Eye is my favorite Atwood (with The Robber Bride a close second) and it's definitely time to revisit.. may consider audio this time around.

Jenners 8/30/11, 8:28 PM  

I thought I had read this but, reading your description, I don't think I have.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 9/1/11, 10:03 PM  

I read this about 100 years ago (or 20) as part of a class reading list. Your review makes me realize how much I missed (the workload?), perhaps it's time for a re-read.

How did you like this particular audio production?

softdrink 9/2/11, 10:54 PM  

I think this is my favorite Atwood, after The Handmaid's Tale. But I still have lots of her books left to read. Next up is The Robber Bride.

Buried In Print 9/8/11, 10:09 AM  

I've re-read this one once already, but you've made me want to revisit it again. There are so many layers that it's definitely worth spending more time with. Glad to hear the audio brought it all back for you!

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