Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

Cat's EyePublished: 1988

Genre: fiction

Length: 446 pages

Setting: Toronto in the 1940s and 1980s

Interest: I was looking for a random book from the library and decided to stick with someone I know I enjoy reading. Atwood is always a favorite and she has several books I haven’t read yet, so I picked up a new one.

Summary: Elaine is a painter. She currently lives in Vancouver, but is in Toronto for a retrospective of her work. Toronto was the city she grew up in, so we see flashbacks of her life from a pre-teen through college interspersed with preparations for her show. Elaine’s father tracked insect outbreaks in the forests of Canada until he got a professorship in Toronto. After settling down, Elaine tries to become friends with the neighborhood girls. She doesn’t really know how to play with girls, though, and is tormented by them, particularly Cordelia. The tables are turned in high school, though, when Cordelia flunks out of her private high school and turns to Elaine to be her friend. Elaine has forgotten most of the what Cordelia did in grade school. In college, Elaine suddenly decides she wants to be a painter. She has an affair with her drawing instructor and gets drawn into marriage and domestic life with another artist. She eventually moves to Vancouver to get away from her memories and Cordelia’s destructive voice.

Final thoughts: An excellent book that used flashbacks well. Atwood makes you feel for her characters, and I felt so sorry for young Elaine as she is bullied by her “friends” and thinks it’s a normal part of a friend relationship. My favorite part was how the paintings she did as an adult integrated so well with her life when younger. Even if Elaine didn’t see the connection with her old life (she repressed most of those early memories), the reader certainly did. The final few paintings she did that were described at the retrospective felt like they summarized the whole story. Once again, Atwood did not disappoint.

Title comes from: A cat’s eye marble Elaine had that she felt gave her power.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 62/100 in the Read-a-Latte Challenge


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