Cat's Eye

Cat's Eye

by Margaret Atwood


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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale

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 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 form her haunting memories. Disturbing, humorous, and compassionate—and a finalist for the Booker Prize—Cat’s Eye is a breathtaking novel of a woman grappling with the tangled knot of her life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385491020
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/1998
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 79,451
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.96(d)
Lexile: 850L (what's this?)

About the Author

Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and her most recent, MaddAddam. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.


Toronto, Ontario

Date of Birth:

November 18, 1939

Place of Birth:

Ottawa, Ontario


B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967

Read an Excerpt


Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. If you can bend space you can bend time also, and if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once.

It was my brother Stephen who told me that, when he wore his raveling maroon sweater to study in and spent a lot of time standing on his head so that the blood would run down into his brain and nourish it. I didn’t understand what he meant, but maybe he didn’t explain it very well. He was already moving away from the imprecision of words.

But I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another. 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.



“Stephen says time is not a line,” I say. Cordelia rolls her eyes, as I knew she would.

“So?” she says. This answer pleases both of us. It puts the nature of time in its place, and also Stephen, who calls us “the teenagers,” as if he himself is not one. Cordelia and I are riding on the streetcar, going downtown, as we do on winter Saturdays. The streetcar is muggy with twice-breathed air and the smell of wool. Cordelia sits with nonchalance, nudging me with her elbow now and then, staring blankly at the other people with her gray-green eyes, opaque and glinting as metal. She can outstare anyone, and I am almost as good. We’re impervious, we scintillate, we are thirteen.

We wear long wool coats with tie belts, the collars turned up to look like those of movie stars, and rubber boots with the tops folded down and men’s work socks inside. In our pockets are stuffed the kerchiefs our mothers make us wear but that we take off as soon as we’re out of their sight. We scorn head coverings. Our mouths are tough, crayon-red, shiny as nails. We think we are friends.

On the streetcars there are always old ladies, or we think of them as old. They’re of various kinds. Some are respectably dressed, in tailored Harris tweed coats and matching gloves and tidy no-nonsense hats with small brisk feathers jauntily at one side. Others are poorer and foreign-looking and have dark shawls wound over their heads and around their shoulders. Others are bulgy, dumpy, with clamped self-righteous mouths, their arms festooned with shopping bags; these we associate with sales, with bargain basements. Cordelia can tell cheap cloth at a glance. “Gabardine,” she says. “Ticky-tack.”

Then there are the ones who have not resigned themselves, who still try for an effect of glamour. There aren’t many of these, but they stand out. They wear scarlet outfits or purple ones, and dangly earrings, and hats that look like stage props. Their slips show at the bottoms of their skirts, slips of unusual, suggestive colors. Anything other than white is suggestive. They have hair dyed straw-blond or baby-blue, or, even more startling against their papery skins, a lusterless old-fur-coat black. Their lipstick mouths are too big around their mouths, their rouge blotchy, their eyes drawn screw-jiggy around their real eyes. These are the ones most likely to talk to themselves. There’s one who says “mutton, mutton,” over and over again like a song, another who pokes at our legs with her umbrella and says “bare naked.”


This is the kind we like best. They have a certain gaiety to them, a power of invention, they don’t care what people think. They have escaped, though what it is they’ve escaped from isn’t clear to us. We think that their bizarre costumes, their verbal tics, are chosen, and that when the time comes we also will be free to choose.

“That’s what I’m going to be like,” says Cordelia. “Only I’m going to have a yappy Pekinese, and chase kids off my lawn. I’m going to have a shepherd’s crook.”

“I’m going to have a pet iguana,” I say, “and wear nothing but cerise.” It’s a word I have recently learned.


Now I think, what if they just couldn’t see what they looked like? Maybe it was as simple as that: eye problems. I’m having that trouble myself now: too close to the mirror and I’m a blur, too far back and I can’t see the details. Who knows what faces I’m making, what kind of modern art I’m drawing onto myself? Even when I’ve got the distance adjusted, I vary. I am transitional; some days I look like a worn-out thirty-five, others like a sprightly fifty. So much depends on the light, and the way you squint.

I eat in pink restaurants, which are better for the skin. Yellow ones turn you yellow. I actually spend time thinking about this. Vanity is becoming a nuisance; I can see why women give it up, eventually. But I’m not ready for that yet.

Lately I’ve caught myself humming out loud, or walking along the street with my mouth slightly open, drooling a little. Only a little; but it may be the thin edge of the wedge, the crack in the wall that will open, later, onto what? What vistas of shining eccentricity, or madness?

There is no one I would ever tell this to, except Cordelia. But which Cordelia? The one I have conjured up, the one with the rolltop boots and the turned-up collar, or the one before, or the one after? There is never only one, of anyone.


If I were to meet Cordelia again, what would I tell her about myself? The truth, or whatever would make me look good?

Probably the latter. I still have that need.

I haven’t seen her for a long time. I wasn’t expecting to see her. But now that I’m back here I can hardly walk down a street without a glimpse of her, turning a comer, entering a door. It goes without saying that these fragments of her-a shoulder, beige, camel’s-hair, the side of a face, the back of a leg-belong to women who, seen whole, are not Cordelia.

I have no idea what she would look like now. Is she fat, have her breasts sagged, does she have little gray hairs at the comers of her mouth? Unlikely: she would pull them out. Does she wear glasses with fashionable frames, has she had her lids lifted, does she streak or tint? All of these things are possible: we’ve both reached that borderline age, that buffer zone in which it can still be believed such tricks will work if you avoid bright sunlight.

I think of Cordelia examining the growing pouches under her eyes, the skin, up close, loosened and crinkled like elbows. She sighs, pats in cream, which is the right kind. Cordelia would know the right kind. She takes stock of her hands, which are shrinking a little, warping a little, as mine are. Gnarling has set in, the withering of the mouth; the outlines of dewlaps are beginning to be visible, down toward the chin, in the dark glass of subway windows. Nobody else notices these things yet, unless they look closely; but Cordelia and I are in the habit of looking closely.

She drops the bath towel, which is green, a muted sea-green to match her eyes, looks over her shoulder, sees in the mirror the dog’s-neck folds of skin above the waist, the buttocks drooping like wattles, and, turning, the dried fern of hair. I think of her in a sweatsuit, sea-green as well, working out in some gym or other, sweating like a pig. I know what she would say about this, about all of this. How we giggled, with repugnance and delight, when we found the wax her older sisters used on their legs, congealed in a little pot, stuck full-of bristles. The grotesqueries of the body were always of interest to her.

I think of encountering her without warning. Perhaps in a worn coat and a knitted hat like a tea cosy, sitting on a curb, with two plastic bags filled with her only possessions, muttering to herself. Cordelia! Don’t you recognize me? I say. And she does, but pretends not to. She gets up and shambles away on swollen-feet, old socks poking through the holes in her rubber boots, glancing back over her shoulder.

There’s some satisfaction in that, more in worse things. I watch from a window, or a balcony so I can see better, as some man chases Cordelia along the sidewalk below me, catches up with her, punches her in the ribs—I can’t handle the face—throws her down. But I can’t go any farther.

Better to switch to an oxygen tent. Cordelia is unconscious. I have been summoned, too late, to her hospital bedside. There are flowers, sickly smelling, wilting in a vase, tubes going into her arms and nose, the sound of terminal breathing. I hold her hand. Her face is puffy, white, like an unbaked biscuit, with yellowish circles under the closed eyes. Her eyelids don’t flicker but there’s a faint twitching of her fingers, or do I imagine it? I sit there wondering whether to pull the tubes out of her arms, the plug out of the wall. No brain activity, the doctors say. Am I crying? And who would have summoned me?

Even better: an iron lung. I’ve never seen an iron lung, but the newspapers had pictures of children in iron lungs, back when people still got polio. These pictures-the iron lung a cylinder, a gigantic sausageroll of metal, with a head sticking out one end of it, always a girl’s head, the hair flowing across the pillow, the eyes large, nocturnal-fascinated me, more than stories about children who went out on thin ice and fell through and were drowned, or children who played on the railroad tracks and had their arms and legs cut off by trains. You could get polio without knowing how or where, end up in an iron lung without knowing why. Something you breathed in or ate, or picked up from the dirty money other people had touched. You never knew.

The iron lungs were used to frighten us, and as reasons why we couldn’t do things we wanted to. No public swimming pools, no crowds in summer. Do you want to spend the rest of your life in an iron lung? they would say. A stupid question; though for me such a life, with its inertia and pity, had its secret attractions.

Cordelia in an iron lung, then, being breathed, as an aceordian is played. A mechanical wheezing sound comes from around her. She is fully conscious, but unable to move or speak. I come into the room, moving, speaking. Our eyes meet.

Reading Group Guide

1. What does Margaret Atwood's novel Cat's Eye say about the nature of childhood and the development of adolescent friendships? Is there a gender influenced difference in cruelty between boys as opposed to cruelty as expressed by girls? At what point does adolescent meanness become pathological?

2. In the opening line of the novel, the narrator, artist Elaine Risley, who returns to the city of her birth for a retrospective of her painting, observes: "Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space . . . if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once." How do you interpret this statement? Why does Elaine return to Toronto and what does she hope to accomplish? Was the trip necessary? If so, why? What role does this return play in the structure of the novel?

3. Elaine is haunted by Cordelia, her "best friend" and the tormentor of her childhood. All predators must have a motive. What benefit did Cordelia receive out of tormenting Elaine? What weakness in Elaine made her particularly vulnerable to Cordelia? Why did she continue to play such importance in Elaine's adult life?

4. Discuss the impact of the type of parenting received by Elaine, Cordelia, and their third friend, Grace. At one point Elaine's mother tells her that she does not have to be with the girls that are tormenting her. Is her mother in any way responsible for what happened to Elaine? What role do you feel parents should play in helping resolve childhood conflicts or in protecting their children?

5. Early in the novel, Elaine is warned by her first new friend, Carol, not to go down into the ravine: "There might be men there." Discuss the significance of this warning, taking into account the later incident between the girls at the ravine. What does this say about our ability to apprehend danger? In what other Atwood novels does she explore the nature of evil and its relationship to gender?

6. Why do you think Elaine became an artist? What is the significance that she did so? Do artists use life experiences in ways nonartists do not?

7. Many of Atwood's themes are first explored in her poetry. We have included two poems from The Circle Game, her award-winning first volume of poetry, published in 1966. How are some of the themes of these poems later developed in Cat's Eye? Atwood is one of the few writers who is successful as both a poet and a novelist. Can you think of others?

8. A review of Cat's Eye by Judith Thurman suggests that a connection exists between sex and childhood games. Discuss this, as well as the significance of the book's title.

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Cat's Eye 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i thought that cat's eye was a marvellous book. it perfectly portrays the truth about young girls and the subtlety of their power games. I also thought this book had deep psychological undertones and if you dont concentrate you wont get the whole picture. Atwood has no trouble in engaging the reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great blend of science, art and chatacters to care for as the reflection occur I am grateful to be reading this at fifty or much would be blurred She writes paintings you can see and smell that linger on tje page Thank you for an inspiring that has given rise to forgive
Guest More than 1 year ago
Never before has the pain and laughter of childhood been illustrated with such unique and yet accurate detail, at least for this reader. Atwood¿s writing is impeccable as she weaves a past-and-present story with fluidity and style, and ingeniously blends dark humor into serious themes. The novel is both poignant and bitingly funny, thanks to Atwood¿s insight, wit, and her ability to create characters who are hauntingly alive. An outstanding reflection on the consequences of human behavior.
RebeccaScaglione More than 1 year ago
"Cat's Eye" by Margaret Atwood is about Elaine Risley who is an aging artist, and, similar to "A Prayer for Owen Meany," takes place when she is older and describes her childhood and experiences with a small group of girls, mainly focusing on the "friend" Cordelia. Elaine grew up in a less than conventional way, with a father who studied bugs and would have the family on the road often. Elaine finally was able to make friends (besides with her older brother, Stephen) when she was eight years old and moved to Toronto. The group of girls she became friends with, led by Cordelia, began to bully Elaine. Elaine was a pushover but did eventually gain some guts. I'll leave it at that since I don't want to give too much away. Another similarity to "A Prayer for Owen Meany" occurs when Elaine experiences a near-death experience and is rescued by, who she perceives is the Virgin Mary. In general, "Cat's Eye" stays farther away from religious topics than "A Prayer for Owen Meany." As Elaine grows up, she becomes a stronger individual and we learn about her love life, her children, and her moderately successful career as a painter. This could probably be a mini spoiler alert, so don't finish this paragraph if you want to read the book yourself! I really did enjoy following Elaine's journey through her life, and with her relationships with her family, boyfriend, husband, and on to being a painter. However, I don't really understand the ending. Maybe I'm missing something, but to me, it was a well-written, interesting story about Elaine's trip to Toronto, while in the midst of this Toronto trip, she explains about her childhood. The book begins with her trip to Toronto and ends with her plane ride home. Usually I would not recommend a book where I didn't like the ending, or where I thought the ending was lackluster. But I honestly did enjoy the book, just was unsatisfied with the ending.
LillyParksONBooks More than 1 year ago
Another great story from Margaret
Guest More than 1 year ago
Notice the simularities between this novel and 'The Bell Jar' Sylvia Plath. Also references to King Lear (Cordelia, Perdie, Mirrie) and Macbeth. Much sybolism relating to twins, lenses, mirors and eyes. Mrs Smeath, Grace, her sisters, Aunt Mildred and Mrs Lumley all wear glasses..are they short sighted?? Throughly enjoyable, although i found the paintings a little confusing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cat¿s Eye: girl on the run This novel reminded me of Girl Interrupted. Elaine, the protagonist, could be Susanna, and her school age ¿friend,¿ Cordelia¿Lisa. Elaine is a fiftyish female (don¿t call me an artist) painter: twice married, mother of two, with a very rich interior life that drives her to the brink of insanity. Susanna, in Susanna Kaysen¿s memoir, was diagnosed as having a borderline personality, and Lisa as having an anti-social personality. The labels fit Atwood¿s characters. The heroine says she was a happy girl until she moved to Toronto at the age of nine, where she attaches herself to the very charismatic Cordelia, who subsequently buries alive her neurotic ¿friend.¿ When Cordelia abandons Elaine in a frozen creek, leaving her for dead¿Elaine breaks the spell, and moves towards independence. She continues this quest for freedom throughout her life¿rejecting God, and her father¿s script for her (that of a scientist) for that of The Artist (painter). What about Mother? She rejects that role, too, of complicit housewife. Elaine, throughout, struggles for freedom and identity, but lands in a world of alienation and confusion, fertile ground for an artist. Predictably, she is seduced by her ¿Life Drawing¿ professor, but throws him off, only to attach herself to a wild, polygamous, peer artist who impregnates her. Unable to communicate other than through her painting, Elaine listens to an ethereal voice and attempts to kill herself, cutting her wrists with her husband¿s Exacto knife. By chance (?), Elaine catches a break when her socially egregious paintings elicit outrage from the community, thus ¿arriving¿ as an artist. This allows her to ditch her eccentric (now) husband and flee to Vancouver to start over. Having applied the ubiquitous geographic cure to no avail, Elaine tries the talking cure¿but she can¿t talk about, or remember, her childhood, which the shrink thinks holds the key. Throughout this disjointed journey, Atwood treats us to the fascinating dream world, adventures and musings of Elaine, who it seems, suffers from identity confusion and concludes that those who care¿lose¿so it is far better to remain unaffiliated. I find interesting Atwood¿s suggestion that perhaps it¿s the names people are given that determines their fate. Elaine wonders if Cordelia had had a different name, she might have fared better. In a later novel, Atwood repeats this premise, having her female characters intentionally change their names to better suit who they think they are, or want to be. In Cat¿s Eye, Elaine¿s brother, who she worships, is named Stephen (the first Christian martyr) and is murdered by terrorists. I wonder ¿ Margaret is a name of many names ¿ and Atwood, who uses the pseudonym O.W. Toad ¿ might just be on to something. This is fiction at its finest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After re-reading catseye, 2 years on from my original school project, I found that it is still as interesting and intricate the second time around. Although it has quite a slow start, he story progresses evenly, without leaving pockets of confusion in the readers mind or dwelling for too long on a given subject. Characters are well developed and Atwood could easily write a complimentary novel about Cordelia's life and side of the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All in all, it wasn't bad... but it wasn't good either. I felt that her childhood experiences were compelling-- pathos was felt for the characters. The character change, the power change in Cordelia and in Elaine, was interesting, but I felt that much more explination was needed and that the ending was a dissapointment. Not bad, but not good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for a project.After talking about it with the group I was working with I found out the only people that really liked this book were those that were into art. I didn't like it at all but hey, that's just my opinion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought Cat's Euye was an excellent book, to which many can relate. Although the beginning is a bit slow and hard to get into, towards the middle, you won't want to put the book down. I felt that the events occurring during Elaine's childhood are depicted without exageration, having experienced similar treatment myself. A compelling, suspenseful read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cat's eye is confusing at the beginning, but once the reader gets into the story, he/she is bound to love it. The writing technique and skills are amazing. The author manages to refer to both the present and the past without losing the atmospere. I just loved the book. The relationships between women are very detailed and realistic.
DowntownLibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At least in my experience, It is hard to go wrong with Margaret Atwood. This story of a successful artist revisiting her childhood is absorbing and vividly realized. I listened to this audiobook with great enjoyment.
knittingchick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is among my favorite fiction works. The cruelty and head games Elaine Risley (the main character) endured at the hands of her school mates was vividly and shockingly true-to-life. So much so, that it's easy to forget this is a work of fiction.The story is told from the perspective of an adult Elaine who returns to the city in which she grew up for an art show retrospective of her paintings. Being back in Toronto floods her with memories of her childhood. Throughout the book we are shown both her history with her schoolmate Cordelia, and her seemingly incongruent desire to see Cordelia once again. This is the only Atwood book which drew me in so deeply, due to the realism of human nature, and the long-term aftermath of being on the receiving end of childhood bullying.
Zara.Garcia.Alvarez on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To decide to enter the fictional world transposed by Atwood is to willingly expect to submerge yourself into her protagonist's psyche -- because that's the power of her work. Regardless, of how unwilling you think you may be to be drawn into her story and/or stories (I pluralize this because she usually has more layers than one), you will have no choice to either be hypnotized or embodied by her world because the voice of her narrative is always so strong. When I say strong, I'm not referring to the tone of voice or the strength of the characters themselves---though this may very well be true of them---I'm referring to the power of her narrative because the voice she writes in---this inner dialogue---is able to excavate marvellous truths with such clarity, originality, and precision. Atwood is able to write with not only keen insight and provocative subject matter, she isn't afraid to offend you with jarring, raw imagery, language, or context. It's intentional in so far as she deliberately resists being conformed by stereotypical ideas or dogmas. What you expect to happen in novels, in how characters are meant to evolve, does not happen in the same way in Atwood's work. The rest comes from a well of either brutal honesty and truth on the part of the writer or the complete professional wizardry performed in the "magic" that Atwood creates with the written word -- or both, except there are no tricks with Atwood. Magic denotes supernatural forces that flow out from nowhere, giving neither its master control nor credit. Atwood's artistry is magical in that she cannot be duplicated or outshone. But her manipulation of the language, her word power and passion for it, and story writing and "showing" -- not "telling" is accurately and expertly devised. It is without a doubt, mostly due to her natural, gifted, and crafted talent. And of course, her dedication to doing the work. (Trust me, she did not pay me to say these things, nor do I say them in a vain hope that she will give me her autograph after a two-day line-up at a book festival and acknowledge me as more than one of the literary cretins who hopes to one day step in her very large, very pointy, red shoes. Okay, well...maybe a little.) And I think that's part of the reason why she's just as resented superficially on a global scale as she is worshipped -- the fact that she has been reigned as an iconic, Canadian, female writer and artist. The irony here, is that her ambition, drive, and self-confidence is what probably brought her to the iconic stratosphere, and no doubt, her natural talent as well -- but this exact kind of attention and glorification is what Atwood, I think, abhors -- and yet at the same time, on some atomic level, demands. But this inner requirement is not her focal point -- it's not the driving force in her writing or why I think she writes. It's the natural talent that compels her. Writing, for any good writer---for any writer worthy of being acclaimed as having an ounce or more of talent---is driven by compulsion. The words must come out. The story must be written down. There are no extravagant plans or blueprints. There is no trickery or shortcuts. There is only always, the writer, the compulsion, the muses, and the white page -- and then the actual act of writing. A good writer need not have "good" muses or even "many" muses. A good writer need only a supersonic ear to listen to the muse he/she has chosen as well as the inner rhythm of language -- but most importantly, a "seeing" eye that understands something regular Joes also know, but cannot articulate. A good writer is a translator of universal truths. A good writer understands this instinctively. A good writer cannot be taught or bred. A good writer can only be born -- and then ruthlessly working in solitude for many hours and years to sharpen his or her 1) craft, 2) pencils, and 3) ego. A bad writer can read many guidebooks, attend writing classes, and "fee
Cait86 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
OK, so by now everyone knows that I am a huge Atwood fan. Cat's Eye is the fourth Atwood novel that I have read this year, so it is no surprise, I am sure, that I loved it. I don't need to spend paragraphs extolling Atwood's way with words, or her amazing ability to turn a boring moment into something exciting - I've already done that. What I do need to talk about is this story.Cat's Eye is about evil - about the harm that one person can do to another, and the deep psychological repercussions that result from that harm. Oh, and it's also about nine year old girls.That's right, the evil in this story is a child. As anyone who was once a nine year old girl can tell you, girls are cruel. Adolescence is bad enough, but the ages of 8-12 can be worse. Subtle manipulation, humiliation, control - these are the tools of nine year old girls.Atwood's heroine is Elaine, an aging artist who has returned to Toronto for a retrospective of her paintings. Elaine spent much of her youth living in Toronto, and has since escaped to Vancouver. Back in her old neighbourhood, Elaine starts to remember her past, and slowly unravels it for the reader.Cordelia is Elaine's best friend - at least, Cordelia is supposed to be Elaine's best friend. However, along with two other girls, Grace and Carol, Cordelia torments poor nine year old Elaine, using those weapons whose usage generations of girls have perfected.Elaine is a classic unreliable narrator. It becomes clear to the reader that she has repressed much of her past, and is only beginning to come to terms with her childhood. Interspersed with her memories are snippets of her present life - the showing of her work, an encounter with her ex-husband, and her constant preoccupation with seeing Cordelia. Over the course of the novel, the reader gets a full picture of Elaine's life, and her present character is eluminated by her past experiences.As always, Atwood's attention to detail is extreme, and her skill at weaving together plot threads is unmatchable. Cat's Eye has a simplistic story - it is just a telling of a woman's life - but its examination of girlhood has a ring of truth. Teenagers who fill the roles of "Mean Girls" just might have been a Cordelia growing up - or an Elaine.
HippieLunatic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Any book by Atwood can give you a glimpse into womanhood. Cat's Eye does it superbly, taking the reader from childhood, through adolescence, into adulthood and maturity, providing moments in Elaine's life that develop her, define her and often defeat her. It is one of the most beautifully depressing books I have ever read.Perhaps growing up as an outsider allowed me to connect on numerous levels with Atwood's main character. Perhaps thinking of myself as a writer (though not an author) allowed me to empathize more so than other readers might be able to. But anyone with haunting memories of childhood friendships will be able to relate in some way or another, and I believe most everyone has a childhood friend that lurks in the shadows of the consciousness.While this might not be a fit for all readers, any woman who knows that her past has colored her present will appreciate it, in my opinion. Those women who have an artistic approach to life will appreciate it even more. If you know that life's bleak moments are as meaningful as the bright, and that the pale moments tend to stick with you longer than the florescent, you'll love it as much as I did.
Perednia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Harrowing, creepy, heartfelt story of growing up under the thumb of a controlling mean girl and how she turned out years later.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I am a fan of her more speculative fiction, I¿m finding that Margaret Atwood can write about almost anything and make it fascinating. This long mainstream novel is a character study of Elaine, a female artist growing up in Toronto who finds herself riding the wave of early feminism. The narrative moves back and forth from the present, when Elaine has returned to her native city for a showing, to her past, from her early childhood through her first marriage and divorce.Clearly, the most formative time in Elaine¿s life is when as a pre-adolescent girl, she was bullied mercilessly by her friends in the torturous ways that only girls can seem to devise. Ironically, she can¿t even remember these events, having blocked the abuse completely, until she is going through her dying mother¿s things and discovers some meaningful items from her childhood that bring the memories flooding back. I think all women can relate to what Elaine experienced, and I even found myself cheering out loud when she finally stands up to her tormentors. Still, she never quite gets over it, and that incident will shape her life and her art, even when she doesn¿t remember it.Atwood tells a wonderful coming-of-age story here, while aptly weaving in the history of the feminist movement, especially in art, and drawing parallels between the young bullies and the militant feminists Elaine will later encounter.
gwc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
corgidog2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Atwood at her best. What a keen sense for nostalgic detail!
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Elaine Risley, a painter, flees west to Vancouver from Toronto to escape her failed marriage and the deeply buried memories of childhood. Now facing middle age and the relentless passage of time, she returns to the city of her childhood for a retrospective of her art ... and discovers her past.Margaret Atwood has constructed a deeply moving novel which spans more than forty years and explores the pain of growing up, betrayal, family connectivity, and ultimately the human ability to forgive and move forward in an uncertain world.Cat's Eye alternates between Elaine's present and her past, juxtaposing her childhood growing up in the 40's and 50's with who she has become in a changed society. The childhood images are the strongest of the novel, painful in their reality, yet often funny as well. Elaine and her brother Steven grow up as nomads of a sort - traveling eastern Canada with their father, an entomologist and professor, and their mother who does not fit with the convention of the 40's housewife. Elaine is more comfortable in the world of boys which include her brother and his friends, and becomes somewhat of a tomboy - ignorant of the politics of girl friendships. Atwood's description of boys is spot on and humorous.Elaine's childhood friendship with three girls - Carol, Grace and Cordelia - is painful; stunning in detail and understanding of what it means to grow up awkward and wanting to fit in. As Elaine moves uncomfortably through high school and college, then through the feminist years of the 60s and into adulthood, the reader begins to understand the present day Elaine - her fears, her joys, her relationship with her parents and the men in her life. And finally, the baggage in the guise of Cordelia, who she has carried through the years and must now come to terms with.As with all Atwood novels, Cat's Eye is a beautifully written story full of symbolism and rich language. I found myself immersed in Elaine's life - hurting when she hurt, despairing, wishing for resolution and understanding. The book has a melancholy feel throughout most of its nearly 500 pages, and yet by the time I had finished it I felt, like Elaine, there was light in the world...and closure.This is a book to relish, to read slowly and spend time thinking about the images. It is a novel first and foremost about women's friendships, with all the barbs and uneasiness, as well as the longing and desire to form them. It is a book about the connections we make, about past wrongs and how to right them or, when that fails, to release them. It is about being human in an often brutal world.Highly recommended; rated 4.5.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastically well written, as are all of Atwood's books. The characterisation is excellent, and the obnoxious teenage girls remembered by the narrator are horribly real. I just wanted to see more of them at the end. Top marks for writing, not so great for plot.
samfsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel could be subtitled ¿The Secret Life of Girls.¿ Atwood states the work is about how girlhood traumas continue into adult life. My question is, how did she remember so much from her childhood? Or did she observe children while writing this? She also stated this novel had the most autobiographical elements of all her novels. It does share some common details with ¿Surfacing¿, one of her earliest novels: the girl that spends her summers in the North woods, that has difficulty relating to other girls during the school year.The novel is excellent, and very convincing. Highly recommended.
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cat's Eye reads like an anthropological study of an unconventional woman from childhood through middle age. Elaine Risley is a feminist who is more comfortable with men than with women because she sees men's faults but finds them almost amusing while she has learned that women search out the faults in other women and use them for constant ridicule. She's is the victim of bullying who grows into a bully herself, or her polite version of a bully. Because of the bullying she is her own worst critic and even when enacting vengeance on her tormentors she sees their vulnerability and can't forgive herself her judgements. In fact, she can't forgive herself any of her faults or celebrate any of her virtues. Everything she does she does with reservation, she loves with reservation, she dresses with reservation, she paints with intensity but regards the results with reservation, she accepts the praise of others with reservation. One part of the artistry of this book is that Atwood can describe the wondrous workings of Risley's mind at the same time she emphasizes her self doubt. Intellectual pursuit is perhaps the only area Risley allows herself to simply enjoy the moment. She describes her father's dinner table conversation. I especially loved the idea that the discovery of insulin will lead to the destruction of the world: insulin is made from cows, the use of insulin allows diabetics to live longer and reproduce so there will be more diabetics needing more insulin from more cows. Cows burp methane, methane leads to global warming with all its resulting cascade of environmental destruction. She rolled her teen age eyes at this conversation, but she produces many of his scientific ideas and the normal thought processes of her exceptional family. Her brother is on the verge of discovering a unified field theory, the discovery of why everything exists - but senseless acts of life interfere. She allows her characters profoundly intellectual inner lives, but outer life, no matter how it looks, always fails to measure up.