Margaret Atwood always makes me look at the world of women with new eyes. This story focuses on girls and their ability to hurt one another so deeply that a lifetime later, the wounds are just beginning to heal.
It's classic margaret Atwood at her best -- the story of a woman in her fifties coming to terms with being a woman, an artist, a wife, and a friend. It bounces back and forth between the story of her relationships with her childhood friends and her brother, and her later life as a grown woman with a husband and children of her own. Atwood as usual can really get into a woman's head.
Told from the point of view of a middle-aged Canadian painter as she waffles back and forth in time, digging up memories from her childhood and young adulthood in Toronto to present day when she has returned to the city for a showing of her paintings at a local gallery. A poignant and sometimes painful book about childhood and about life; about living and loving and loss, and how it is indeed possible to miss what never was. Atwood has a magical way with words and despite the childhood part of the book being set in post-WWII Canada, I could easily relate to much of what she described. Excellent read, highly recommended.
Returning to the city of her youth for a retrospective of her art, controversial painter Elaine Risley is engulfed by vivid images of the past. Strongest of all is the figure of Cordelia, leader of the 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 Cordelia's haunting memory. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, Cat's Eye is a breathtaking contemporary novel of a woman grappling with the tangled knot of her life.
This is an excellent book--well written. It's the story of a young girl, her experiences with her friends and family while growing up. I did't want the book to end.
This is a story about how being bullied as a child shapes your life. The characters are richly developed and believable. We've all known an Elaine or Cordelia in our early years - or we've been one. Atwood is a wonderful story teller and at times her words are more poetry than prose. The ending was a bit of a let down for me. I kept waiting for the twist or big revelation to surface. Instead, it just sort of bubbled to the top.
Herself the daughter of a Canadian forest entomologist, Atwood writes in an autobiographical vein about Elaine Risley, a middle-aged Canadian painter (and daughter of a forest entomologist) who is thrust into an extended reconsideration of her past while attending a retrospective show of her work in Toronto, a city she had fled years earlier in order to leave behind painful memories. Most pointedly, Risley reflects on the strangeness of her long relations with Cordelia, a childhood friend whose cruelties, dealt lavishly to Risley, helped hone her awareness of our inveterate appetite for destruction even while we love, and are understood as characteristically femininea betrayal of other women that masks a ferocious betrayal of oneself. Atwood's portrayal of the friendship gives the novel its fraught and mysterious center, but her critical assessment of Cordelia and the "whole world of girls and their doings" also takes the measure of a coercive, conformist society (not quite as extreme as in the futuristic The Handmaid's Tale ). Emerging "the stronger" for her latecoming understanding of herself, Risley in the final pages rises above the ties that bound her, transcendently alive to the possibilities of "light, shining out in the midst of nothing
Goes back and forth from author's present day to her childhood. Engrossing read.
I know, this book is over 50 years old, and it's not fair to judge its sensibilities by today's standards. But (of course) I felt like this book's intended strength was to just be about a woman's life, and that just being about a female artist and not a man was going to be enough of a feat to make it great. Reading it in 2016, I found it beautifully written, but deeply unsatisfying.
Like other readers, Elaine exasperated me. I wished her deeply unusual childhood had produced some effect on her other than developing a mild emotional detachment disorder. I wished her cat's eye marble, which shows up in her possession and in her art, had some meaning in her life. I wished she had used her negative experiences for herself somehow. I wished she had fought back a bit, maybe found some sort of internal strength or character to secretly cherish (which should have been symbolized by the cat's eye, clearly, but it turns out that was a red herring). I wished she had at least become wise over the years. But in the end, this character gave the reader and herself absolutely nothing.
I wished that after such a shocking and horrifying beginning, her relationship with Cordelia had had an ending that was not bland and anticlimactic. I kept waiting for Cordelia to come back, in some form, to give her early cruelty some sort of meaning. Or, better, to answer the main question of the book, which Elaine herself states: "I need to ask her why." Elaine also says, "We are like the twins in old fables, each of whom has been given half a key." Except, in the old fables, obviously the twins would eventually reunite, join their keys, and open the lock. This novel, by comparison, reads like half a book. Elaine has half a story. She is half a person, but she is the physical half, not the half we really want to know about.
Elaine does sort of transform, but only by growing older, not by any will of her own. Like other readers, I sometimes find a passive and unlikable main character to be too large an obstacle to surmount. I think I am just getting too old to be patient with voiceless main characters. Or maybe it's too much the 21st Century for me to find painting cruelly realistic renderings of disabled housewives to be a provocative or revolutionary expression of one's voice? It could be that this novel is too old for me, in a way.
I can't recommend this book. Especially if, like me, you find it difficult to read the prose without hearing it in Atwood's own nasal and self-satisfied Gothic Ontario drawl.
VERY enjoyable book! I highly recommend it.
Hands down my favorite Atwood books. Probably one of the most impactful books I read during college. The line 'lay down, Cordelia, you're dead' hit straight to my heart. I found myself saying that myself, in my healing over a boyfriend who broke my heart and haunted me for months.
her most popular canadian author Painter images of the past.
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.
Returning to the city of her youth for a retrospective of her art, controversial painter Elaine Risley is engulfed by vivid images of the past. Strongest of all is the figure of Cordelia, leasder of the 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 Cordelia's haunting memory.
New York Times best seller.
"When Elaine Risley returns to her hometown, Toronto, for a retrospective show of her paintings, she finds more than critical acclaim. Local streets, long-gone landmarks, and elements in the paintings themselves trigger memories of her transient childhood traveling across Canada with her entomologist father; of adolescence marred by the cruel teasing of three friends; and of love affairs with her first art teacher and mentor, and with Jon, her first husband. In addition, Elaine is haunted by thoughts of her chief tormentor/best friend, Cordelia, whom she last saw years ago in a mental institution." amazon
This book is written like a finely crafted piece of needlework. It is most eloquent in the first half when the childhood experience is developed in a raw, untarnished way. Unfortunately, the second half of the book fell off for me as much of the character recycles, in one way or another, her early years. Atwood is at her best when she's telling the truth and not just trying to finish the book.
Imminently readable; intelligent and emotional.
Great book! After reading this one, I wanted to run out and buy up every book Atwood had written!
Atwood is great, as always! The childhood landscape she recreates is more vivid than one's own memories, yet chillingly real.
Very good. Atwood stories have so much depth.
Great book about a girls tramatic childhood.
Not a cheery book at all, but certainly worthwhile. It sheds light on the friendships that influence us as adolescents.
quoted from amazon.com Another winner from Margaret Atwood, September 28, 2003
In CAT'S EYE, Margaret Atwood tells the story of Elaine Risley, an avant-garde painter who finds herself reflecting on her tumultuous childhood when she returns to her home town of Toronto for a retrospective art exhibit. It has been many years since she set foot in Canada, where she grew up moving from place to place, due to her father's career as an entomologist. The story is told in flashbacks, as the story of her current life as a painter, on her second marriage, is told in-between the story of her childhood. Two plot lines run parallel to each other, until the very end when both the past and her present collide.
Elaine's first years were spent travelling with her family, never having a best friend. It is all she yearns for, to have a real girl friend. All she had during those early years was her brother, who as he grew older drifted away from her, leaving her alone to fend for herself. When her father finally settles down and buys a house, she begins to make her first set of real friends. However, how does one define a friend? Elaine becomes part of a group of girls that seem to be living under the steel hand of Cordelia, the ringleader. Cordelia treats them all as if she was a dictator and they were her subjects, but her treatment of Elaine is totally unforgivable. Elaine is tormented to a point where her own mental health is jeopardized, and at one point one wonders how she ever survived.
But survive she did. As Elaine tells her story, we see how she developed from a very insecure and needy young girl to a woman who understands why she made the choices she did as a child, and became a very successful painter, secure in who she was and where she had come from. The key to her understanding is her friendship with Cordelia, the young girl who treated Elaine like dirt, yet towards whom Elaine felt a type of longing for, years after she had last seen Cordelia. It is a psychologically themed book, as usual, layered upon different levels of plots and subplots and characters. Margaret Atwood is the queen of this form of novel, and it is no wonder she is one of the best storytellers today. This was my fourth Atwood novel, and I will not hesitate to read my next. Although not as complex as THE BLIND ASSASSIN, nor as prophetic as THE HANDMAID'S TALE, CAT'S EYE stands alone as a great book that is a must-read for any fan. I give this book 5 stars.
I truly enjoyed this Atwood work! It really does provide a wonderful study on how mean girls can be! Really, really young girls even can be very mean and the older they get, the meaner they can become!!!
To this day I have trouble with developing friendships with females. All 3 of Elaine Risely's friends are part of this trio of girls who made Elaine's life miserable, for it really does stay with you your entire life! Hooray for Elaine that she channelled this into her art instead of becoming a failure!
Great character study! 5 STARS!!!
"Nightmarish, evocative, heartbreaking...Margaret Atwood's most emotionally engaging fiction thus far." --- NYT BOOK REVIEW
Returning to the city of her youth for a retrospective of her art, controversial painter Elaine Risley is engulfed by vivid images of the past. Strongest of all is the figure of Cordelia, leader of the 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 Cordelia's haunting memory.
Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, Cat's Eye is Margaret Atwood's most deeply felt work of fiction todate.
Nightmarish, evocative, heartbreaking. Margaret Atwood's most emotionally engaging fiction thus far.....
A brilliant, three dimensional mosaic...the story of Elain's childhood is so real and heartbreaking you want to stand up in your seat and cheer.
From the back cover: "Returning to the city of her youth for a retrospective of her art, controversial painter Elaine Risley is engulfed by vivid images of the past. Strongest of all is the figure of Cordelia, leader of the 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 Cordelia's haunting memory."
This was a very good book.
I have been carrying this book around, so it is a little rough around the edges. Awesome book.
back cover ripped in half