In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England - a 'castle that was to cross the sea'. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly 'Cat's Table' with an eccentric group of grown-ups and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the ...
In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England - a 'castle that was to cross the sea'. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly 'Cat's Table' with an eccentric group of grown-ups 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 become involved in the worlds and stories of the adults around them, tumbling from one adventure and delicious discovery to another, 'bursting all over the place like freed mercury'. And at night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner - his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever. As the narrative moves from the decks and holds of the ship and the boy's adult years, it tells a spellbinding story about the difference between the magical openness of childhood and the burdens of earned understanding - about a life-long journey that began unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage, when all on board were 'free of the realities of the earth'. With the ocean liner a brilliant microcosm for the floating dream of childhood, "The Cat's Table" is a vivid, poignant and thrilling book, full of Ondaatje's trademark set-pieces and breathtaking images: a story told with a child's sense of wonder by a novelist at the very height of his powers.
Publishers Weekly, 2012-01-30 It only adds to the autobiographical nature of Ondaatje's novel-concerning a young boy who journeys by ship from Sri Lanka to England in the 1950s-that the author narrates this audio edition of his latest work. The mellifluous tones of Ondaatje's accent (part British and part subcontinental) are themselves testament to the memoiristic underpinnings of his novel. He reads without a professional's preciseness, and yet, knowing his work as well as he does, captures the subtle music of its understated prose. Listeners will relish Ondaatje's occasional variations from traditional British pronunciation, each one serving as a symbol of the book itself, which spans two continents and two eras. Listening to Ondaatje read becomes a pleasure in its own right; being neither here nor there, the author is himself much like the tale he tells, and the boy at its heart. A Knopf hardcover. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly, 2011-08-22 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.
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