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The Cat's Table [Audio]
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About the Author

Michael Ondaatje is the author of five previous novels, a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and several books of poetry. "The English Patient" won the Booker Prize; "Anil s Ghost "won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Prix Medicis. Born in Sri Lanka, Michael Ondaatje now lives in Toronto. www.michaelondaatje.com "From the Hardcover edition.""

Reviews

"The journey was to be an innocent story within the small parameter of my youth," says the narrator of his voyage aboard the Oronsay, which carried him through the Indian Ocean to England and his divorced mother. But for 11-year-old Michael, things shift from the moment he is seated at "the cat's table," the least propitious spot in the dining room. Michael enjoys wild escapades with the two other boys at the table, quiet Ramadhin and hell-raiser Cassius, while befriending the mismatched adults at his table as well as his card-playing roommate, who tends the ship's kennels. Others on board include Michael's older cousin Emily, who takes up with the magnetic head of a performing troupe while protecting a deaf and frail-looking girl named Asuntha, and a heavily chained prisoner. The relationship among these four characters precipitates crisis, but we're not led to it systematically; instead, Booker Prize winner Ondaatje (Anil's Ghost) flashes forward to Michael as an adult, showing us how unwittingly we lose our childhood innocence and how that loss comes to affect us much, much later. VERDICT Writing in a less lyrically wrought style than usual, Ondaatje turns in a quietly enthralling work. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 4/4/11.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In Ondaatje's best novel since his Booker Prize-winning The English Patient, an 11-year-old boy sets off on a voyage from Ceylon to London, where his mother awaits. Though Ondaatje tells us firmly in the "Author's Note" that the story is "pure invention," the young boy is also called Michael, was also born in Ceylon, and also grows up to become a writer. This air of the meta adds a gorgeous, modern twist to the timeless story of boys having an awfully big adventure: young Michael meets two children of a similar age on the Oronsay, Cassius and Ramadhin, and together the threesome gets up to all kinds of mischief on the ship, with, and at the expense of, an eccentric set of passengers. But it is Michael's older, beguiling cousin, Emily, also onboard, who allows him glimpses of the man he is to become. As always, Ondaatje's prose is lyrical, but here it is tempered; the result is clean and full of grace, such as in this description of the children having lashed themselves to the deck to experience a particularly violent storm: "our heads were stretched back to try to see how deep the bow would go on its next descent. Our screams unheard, even to each other, even to ourselves, even if the next day our throats were raw from yelling into that hallway of the sea." (Oct. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

"The Cat s Table "is just as skillfully wrought as Ondaatje s magnum opus "The English Patient," but its picaresque childhood adventure gives it a special power and intimacy . . . He is a master at creating characters, whom he chooses to present, memorably, as individuals. This choice is of a piece with the freshness and originality that are the hallmarks of "The Cat s Table." "Wall Street Journal" "" A joy and a lark to read . . . Within a few pages of the book s opening, "The Cat s Table "has done a miraculous thing it has ceased to be a book, or even a piece of art. It is merely a story, unfolding before the reader s eyes, its churning motor a mystery about what it is exactly that happened on this boat . . . Told in short bursts of exposition so beautiful one actually feels the urge to slow the reading down, the novel shows us how the boy assembles the man. "Boston Globe" "" "The Cat s Table "is an exquisite example of the richness that can flourish in the gaps between fact and fiction . . . Ondaatje has an eerily precise grasp of the immediacy of a child s world view, and an extraordinary sense of individual destiny . . . It is an adventure story, it is a meditation on power, memory, art, childhood, love and loss. It displays a technique so formidable as to seem almost playful. It is one of those rare books that one could reread an infinite number of times, and always find something new within its pages. "Evening Standard "(UK) This book is wonderful, offering all the best pleasures of Ondaatje s writing: his musical prose, up-tempo; his ear for absurd, almost surreal dialogue, which had me laughing out loud in public as I read; his admiration for craftsmanship and specialized language in the sciences and the trades; and his sumptuous evocations of sensual delight . . ." "In many ways, this book is Ondaatje s most intimate yet. "Globe and Mail "(Canada) A treasure chest of escapades from a pitch-perfect writer, an immaculate observer of the dance of humans, giving us an intoxicating mix of tenderly rendered boy s eye perspective and the musings of the older narrator looking back on this intensely formative voyage . . . It is a classic, perfect premise for a novel packed with possibilities. Put it in the hands of one of the most subtle and surprising masters of world writing, Michael Ondaatje, and unalloyed joy lies latent in every sentence and sensuous quirk of the narrative. This is simply blissful storytelling . . . Think the seafaring Joseph Conrad, with an invigorating infusion of "Treasure Island, " a touch of Mark Twain. "The Scotsman "(UK) Ondaatje s best novel since his Booker Prize winning "The English Patient" . . . [An] air of the meta adds a gorgeous, modern twist to the timeless story of boys having an awfully big adventure . . . As always, Ondaatje s prose is lyrical, but here it is tempered; the result is clean and full of grace. "Publishers Weekly "(starred) A graceful, closely observed novel that blends coming-of-age tropes with a Conradian sea voyage . . . Beautifully detailed, without a false note: It is easy to imagine, in Ondaatje s hands, being a passenger in the golden age of transoceanic voyaging, amid a sea of cocktail glasses and overflowing ashtrays, if in this case a setting more worthy of John le Carre than Noel Coward . . . Elegiac, mature, and nostalgic a fine evocation of childhood, and of days irretrievably past. "Kirkus Reviews "(starred) Ondaatje is justly recognized as a master of literary craft . . . The novel tells of a journey from childhood to the adult world, as well as a passage from the homeland to another country, something of a Dantean experience. Annie Proulx, "The Guardian" (UK) Ondaatje s wondrous prose feels more alive to the world than ever before . . . This is a simpler story, more simply told, than Ondaatje has accustomed his readers to . . . Yet "The Cat s Table "is no less thrilling in its attempts to capture beauty in its various and terrifying forms. "Financial Times "(UK) Richly enjoyable, often very funny, and gleams like a really smart liner on a sunny day . . . The magic of this fine book is in the strange inventiveness of its episodes. Ondaatje is really the master of incident in the novel, and the enchantments wash over the reader in waves . . . The beauty of Ondaatje s writing is in its swift accuracy; it sings with the simple precision of the gaze. "Daily Telegraph" (UK) "" "The Cat s Table "is Ondaatje s most accessible, most compelling novel to date. It may also be his finest . . . Ondaatje s prose is, as always, stunning . . . "The Cat s Table "is a breathtaking account not only of boyhood, but of its loss. It is a novel filled with utterly unique characters and situations, but universal in its themes, heartbreakingly so, and a journey the reader will never forget. "Vancouver Sun "(Canada) An eloquent, elegiac tribute to the game of youth and how it shapes what follows . . . One of the strengths of the novel is the sheer brilliance of characterization on show. The bit players on board the Oronsay are almost Dickensian in their eccentricity and lovability . . . In "The Cat s Table, "he has not only captured with acute precision the precarious balance of his characters existence on the move but also the battle that adults wage for the retention of the awe and wonder they once took for granted in their childhood. Ultimately, Ondaatje has created a beautiful and poetic study hre of what it means to have your very existence metaphorically, as well as literally, all at sea. "Independent on Sunday "(UK) "" A novel superbly poised between the magic of innocence and the melancholy of experience. "Economist "(UK) "" Is there a novelist who writes more compellingly about tenderness than Ondaatje? . . . "The Cat s Table "is a voyage of discovery for the reader as well as for its narrator. I loved the book, was dazzled by its language, and looked forward to turning each page to learn what would happen next. "Montreal Gazette "(Canada) "The Cat s Table "deserves to be recognized for the beauty and poetry of its writing: pages that lull you with their carefully constructed rhythm, sailing you effortlessly from chapter to chapter and leaving you bereft when forced to disembark at the novel s end. "Sunday Telegraph "(UK) So enveloping and beautifully rendered, one is reluctant to disembark at the end of the journey . . . The best novels and poetry possess a kind of bottomlessness: each time a reader revisits a masterful work, she finds something new. Though the ocean journey in "The Cat s Table" lasts a mere 21 days, it encapsulates the fullness of a lifetime. This reader will undoubtedly return to it and unearth new treasures from its depths. "Quill and Quire "(Canada) " ""The Cat's Table "is just as skillfully wrought as Ondaatje's magnum opus "The English Patient," but its picaresque childhood adventure gives it a special power and intimacy . . . He is a master at creating characters, whom he chooses to present, memorably, as individuals. This choice is of a piece with the freshness and originality that are the hallmarks of "The Cat's Table."" --"Wall Street Journal" " " "A joy and a lark to read . . . Within a few pages of the book's opening, "The Cat's Table "has done a miraculous thing--it has ceased to be a book, or even a piece of art. It is merely a story, unfolding before the reader's eyes, its churning motor a mystery about what it is exactly that happened on this boat . . . Told in short bursts of exposition so beautiful one actually feels the urge to slow the reading down, the novel shows us how the boy assembles the man." --"Boston Globe" " " ""The Cat's Table "is an exquisite example of the richness that can flourish in the gaps between fact and fiction . . . Ondaatje has an eerily precise grasp of the immediacy of a child's world view, and an extraordinary sense of individual destiny . . . It is an adventure story, it is a meditation on power, memory, art, childhood, love and loss. It displays a technique so formidable as to seem almost playful. It is one of those rare books that one could reread an infinite number of times, and always find something new within its pages." --"Evening Standard "(UK) "This book is wonderful, offering all the best pleasures of Ondaatje's writing: his musical prose, up-tempo; his ear for absurd, almost surreal dialogue, which had me laughing out loud in public as I read; his admiration for craftsmanship and specialized language in the sciences and the trades; and his sumptuous evocations of sensual delight . . .""In many ways, this book is Ondaatje's most intimate yet." --"Globe and Mail "(Canada) "A treasure chest of escapades from a pitch-perfect writer, an immaculate observer of the dance of humans, giving us an intoxicating mix of tenderly rendered boy's eye perspective and the musings of the older narrator looking back on this intensely formative voyage . . . It is a classic, perfect premise for a novel packed with possibilities. Put it in the hands of one of the most subtle and surprising masters of world writing, Michael Ondaatje, and unalloyed joy lies latent in every sentence and sensuous quirk of the narrative. This is simply blissful storytelling . . . Think the seafaring Joseph Conrad, with an invigorating infusion of "Treasure Island, " a touch of Mark Twain." --"The Scotsman "(UK) "Ondaatje's best novel since his Booker Prize-winning "The English Patient" . . . [An] air of the meta adds a gorgeous, modern twist to the timeless story of boys having an awfully big adventure . . . As always, Ondaatje's prose is lyrical, but here it is tempered; the result is clean and full of grace." --"Publishers Weekly "(starred) "A graceful, closely observed novel that blends coming-of-age tropes with a Conradian sea voyage . . . Beautifully detailed, without a false note: It is easy to imagine, in Ondaatje's hands, being a passenger in the golden age of transoceanic voyaging, amid a sea of cocktail glasses and overflowing ashtrays, if in this case a setting more worthy of John le CarrE than Noel Coward . . . Elegiac, mature, and nostalgic--a fine evocation of childhood, and of days irretrievably past." --"Kirkus Reviews "(starred) "Ondaatje is justly recognized as a master of literary craft . . . The novel tells of a journey from childhood to the adult world, as well as a passage from the homeland to another country, something of a Dantean experience." --Annie Proulx, "The Guardian" (UK) "Ondaatje's wondrous prose feels more alive to the world than ever before . . . This is a simpler story, more simply told, than Ondaatje has accustomed his readers to . . . Yet "The Cat's Table "is no less thrilling in its attempts to capture beauty in its various and terrifying forms." --"Financial Times "(UK) "Richly enjoyable, often very funny, and gleams like a really smart liner on a sunny day . . . The magic of this fine book is in the strange inventiveness of its episodes. Ondaatje is really the master of incident in the novel, and the enchantments wash over the reader in waves . . . The beauty of Ondaatje's writing is in its swift accuracy; it sings with the simple precision of the gaze." --"Daily Telegraph" (UK) " " ""The Cat's Table "is Ondaatje's most accessible, most compelling novel to date. It may also be his finest . . . Ondaatje's prose is, as always, stunning . . . "The Cat's Table "is a breathtaking account not only of boyhood, but of its loss. It is a novel filled with utterly unique characters and situations, but universal in its themes, heartbreakingly so, and a journey the reader will never forget." --"Vancouver Sun "(Canada) "An eloquent, elegiac tribute to the game of youth and how it shapes what follows . . . One of the strengths of the novel is the sheer brilliance of characterization on show. The bit players on board the Oronsay are almost Dickensian in their eccentricity and lovability . . . In "The Cat's Table, "he has not only captured with acute precision the precarious balance of his characters' existence on the move but also the battle that adults wage for the retention of the awe and wonder they once took for granted in their childhood. Ultimately, Ondaatje has created a beautiful and poetic study hre of what it means to have your very existence metaphorically, as well as literally, all at sea." --"Independent on Sunday "(UK) " " "A novel superbly poised between the magic of innocence and the melancholy of experience." --"Economist "(UK) " " "Is there a novelist who writes more compellingly about tenderness than Ondaatje? . . . "The Cat's Table "is a voyage of discovery for the reader as well as for its narrator. I loved the book, was dazzled by its language, and looked forward to turning each page to learn what would happen next." --"Montreal Gazette "(Canada) ""The Cat's Table "deserves to be recognized for the beauty and poetry of its writing: pages that lull you with their carefully constructed rhythm, sailing you effortlessly from chapter to chapter and leaving you bereft when forced to disembark at the novel's end." --"Sunday Telegraph "(UK) "So enveloping and beautifully rendered, one is reluctant to disembark at the end of the journey . . . The best novels and poetry possess a kind of bottomlessness: each time a reader revisits a masterful work, she finds something new. Though the ocean journey in "The Cat's Table" lasts a mere 21 days, it encapsulates the fullness of a lifetime. This reader will undoubtedly return to it and unearth new treasures from its depths." - --"Quill and Quire "(Canada)

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