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December Fiction: The Cat's Table

Join us for our December meeting, where we will discuss Michael Ondaatje's The Cat's Table, a novel chronicling a boy's journey by ship from Sri Lanka to England.

From The New York Times Sunday Book Review:

In “The Cat’s Table,” Ondaatje seems to lead the reader on a journey through three deeply submerged weeks in his own memory — from the year 1954, when, at age 11, he traveled on the ocean liner Oronsay from Colombo, in what was then Ceylon, to England, a passage that would lead him from his past to his future self. As the novel opens, prominent passengers are granted seats at the captain’s table, but young Michael (nicknamed Mynah) and the two boys he befriends, Cassius (a troublemaker) and Ramadhin (a contemplative asthmatic), are relegated to a table of dubious characters: a mute tailor, a retired ship dismantler, a pianist who has “hit the skids,” a botanist and a lady who hides pigeons in the pockets of her jacket, and reads thrillers in her deck chair, flinging them overboard when they bore her.

Reading Michael Ondaatje’s mesmerizing new novel, “The Cat’s Table,” is like being guided, just as surely and just as magically, through the author’s lustrous visions. --Liesl Schillinger, October 14, 2011.

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  • Matt B.

    An unexpected matter just arose, and I cannot attend tonight's book club meeting. I do have a question for others. Even though I knew the book was fiction, I still found myself in the world of disbelief, thinking that there had to be much more biographical stuff to this then Ondaatje was admitting. However, I also knew that there were some significant literary references that he was employing with his characters. Was I the only one weaving back and forth while reading this delightful book?



    December 13, 2012

    • Amanda

      Not that that resolves the question, which is a complicated one, but you may find the interview interesting--though I have to say I was a little disappointed, actually, to hear Ondaatje draw an explicit line, as the "weaving" is one of the charms of the book.

      December 13, 2012

    • Matt B.

      Thanks Amanda for the info on the Diane Rehm show. I'll be interested in what he has to say as well as to what others perceived.

      December 13, 2012

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