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Cat's Eye [Paperback]

Margaret Atwood
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb 1998
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 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 from her haunting memories. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, Cat's Eye is a breathtaking novel of a woman grappling with the tangled knot of her life.

Product details

  • Paperback: 462 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Books (Feb 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385491026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385491020
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.4 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,849,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays.

In addition to the classic The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, shortlisted for the 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 and Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, was published in 2009. She was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature in 2008.

Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto, Canada.

(Photo credit: George Whitside)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Margaret Atwood charts the psychological process of memory as compulsion and memory as a healing act through the character of Elaine Risley, an artist who returns to her home town of Toronto for a retrospective of her work. Elaine's visit triggers thoughts of her childhood with all the urgency of a bad rash. Dominating her reflections are her childhood "friends", three girls who wreak havoc on Elaine's self-esteem. Having spent her early childhood on the road with an entomologist father, a less than traditional mother and a brother more concerned with snot and snakes than the intricate behaviour codes of girls, the young Elaine is vulnerable to the indirect aggression of Cordelia, the ringleader of the group who seeks to improve her. Through Elaine's experiences, Margaret Atwood turns a keen and ironic eye on the training of females in North American culture: "All I have to do is sit on the floor and cut frying pans out of the Eaton's Catalogue with embroidery scissors, and say I've done it badly." The self-effacement of these girl-children barely masks a need for power that erupts all too often in cruel forms of play. This is a story in which the lines between victims and oppressors blur, in which forgiveness becomes an act of gaining power. Through humour, pain and insight, she makes us see, with surprise and recognition, details from childhood we may well have forgotten. --Chris Kellett, From 500 Great Books by Women --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Not since Graham Greene or William Golding has a novelist captured so forcefully the relationship between school bully and victim...Atwood's power games are played, exquisitely, by little girls (LISTENER)

Irrestistible...This book is about life for all of us. She is one of our finest novelists. Read it (THE TIMES)

Atwood's taut and exquisite use of language makes all her books irresistable... (THE WEEK)

Margaret Atwood charts the psychological process of memory as compulsion and memory as a healing act through the character of Elaine Risley, an artist who returns to her home town of Toronto for a retrospective of her work. Elaine's visit triggers though (- Chris Kellett, From 500 Great Books by Women, AMAZON.CO.UK REVIEW) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
If you only read one Margaret Attwood book this should be it. This was the first of her novels that I read and I have been gripped by her work ever since. Cat's Eye is, on the surface, a first person documentary of a young girl's progression from childhood to her life as a moderately successful artist of a certain age.
Attwood's use of stream of consciousness may confuse an unwary reader. However don't be put off. Attwood reminds us from the outset that time is not a line but more like a pool of water into which our memory dips a hand from time to time. In fact this method of writing is aptly suited to Elaine's journey through the infulences and relationships which explain the woman she has become.
It would be impossible for anyone to read this book as a story. It is a series of memories. The backdrop to our journey is set in the present where Elaine, our navigator, is being 'honoured' with a retrospective of her artwork in a small gallery Toronto, the city of her upbringing. By way of a parallel to this Attwood gives us glimpses of Elaine's life in retrospective showing how each of the pivitol moments in her life have shaped her ability to interact with her environment and with those around herm, both men and women. To emphasise this point Attwood has dispensed with the uniform chapter titles and numbers. Instead there are numerous sporadic switches between the past and present, each of which is segmented under what could be the titles of paintings/artwork, the pictures of which we are encouraged to form in our own minds as we experience the world through Elaine's senses.
In particular Elaine centres on the influence of Cordelia her childhood 'friend' around whom her early attempts at stability were centred.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spot on 1 Sep 2007
`Cat's Eye' is the story of Elaine Risley, a painter who returns to Toronto for a retrospect of her work and finds herself flooded by memories of her past. Probably the first half of the novel focuses on Elaine's childhood, especially the complex relationship with her `friend' Cordelia, while roughly the second half shows her growing up and coping with the difficulties of more adult relationships.

`Cat's Eye' captures the pieces of childhood, and especially the complicated power games that girls play with each other, absolutely perfectly. While reading moments of my own past came back to be, rather like the older Elaine holding her marble and suddenly remembering a past she'd forgotten (if not put behind her) such a long time ago. Never before have I read a book that truly illustrates how subtle and nasty little girls really can be while in a believable and realistic context.

If I have a criticism it's that I enjoyed the early parts of the novel far more than the later when Elaine was older, however, being eighteen, it may only be that I was able to identify with the earlier incidents far more than troubled marriages and in twenty years I may feel differently.

Overall a hugely enjoyable book that really seems to chart how women act towards one another. Perhaps it wouldn't mean quite so much to men but I think many women would recognise moments and behaviour in this interesting and absorbing novel.

I've read a number of Margaret Atwood novels and short stories and while the writing possibly isn't as well done as `The Handmaid's Tale' it's still up there with the best. A must if you're a fan, probably a good place to start if it's your first.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense, profound and moving 25 Oct 2001
By A Customer
I had to read this novel for my A-levels at school, but since we had already done 'The Handmaids Tale' (another winner), I wasn't apprehensive in the slightest.
The emotions it stirs up in you are amazing, and if you study the language and way it's written, as I had to, then you begin to see it's different levels.
This is the story of Elaine, the girl who is bullied by her 'friend' Cordelia. I found myself getting totally immersed in this story and making myself read faster just so I could find out how Elaine prevails. She's a strong little character, but with flaws that allow the bullying to continue. Once she has ridden herself of it, we begin to see how it effects her life and how she deals with it years after it has ended.
I think I had a week to read this book, and it only took me 2 days. Every spare second was taken up with it.
I admire Margaret Atwood's writing a great deal - there's an honesty and a sense of poetry in the tales she tells, and she has a gift of sweeping you up in them. This novel is definately one of her best, and worth keeping on the bookshelf to read over and over.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written but unconvincing 12 Mar 2012
By Calypso
Cat's Eye is the story of Elaine Risley, a painter who returns to Toronto for a retrospective of her work and her life. Much of her early childhood was spent in the wilderness with her parents, following her father's career as an entomologist. Returning to Toronto she becomes `friends' with three girls and, partly as a result of her alternative upbringing, suffers psychological bullying which we are lead to believe influences much of her life and her art.

The book is beautifully written, and difficult to critique. Margaret Attwood has an inimitable style. However, the story is unconvincing. The bullying, which is supposed to be the central theme of the book, lacks credibility. Elaine Risley, with a solid early childhood, is an unlikely victim, and the psychological control exercised by the other girls is weak. Throughout the book there is a sense of isolation, but this is at odds with the relative closeness of her family who are absent through most of Elaine's adult traumas. Her parents seem to show no interest in their grandchildren, but involved Elaine and her brother fully in their lives.

As the psychology does not work well and there is no significant plot, the pace is slow and frustrating. The attempt to tackle the issue of bullying is probably why Cat's Eye was nominated for the Booker, but, apart from the enviable writing style, it is hard to see what else the book offers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Distressing, evocative.
Subtle and amazing...not going to spoil.
Published 2 days ago by Mr. Robert Flett
1.0 out of 5 stars A void
I was unmoved by this story, perhaps because the narrator, Elaine, seems little moved by anything. Nor was I intellectually stimulated by it. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Prospecta
2.0 out of 5 stars Third TIme Unlucky
This is the thirds MA book I have read and without doubt the worst, and now, because of that, probably the last I will read. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rob Sawyer
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointed
After loving nearly all her previous books, I was disappointed in this one. The themes it ruminates on are well chosen and well described but the story itself goes no where,
Published 4 months ago by Amateur Domestic
5.0 out of 5 stars book
I was pleased with all aspects of this purchase: the product arrived promptly and was in excellent condition and met my expectations.
Published 5 months ago by Ms. S. J. Rolph
5.0 out of 5 stars Please read
I read this by recommendation, it was a slow starter but the more I read the more I loved. The description in which she writes is timeless. Please read
Published 9 months ago by helen
4.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written
After falling in love with Atwoods work after reading The Handmaids Tale i was certainly not dissapointed with Cat's Eye
which tells the story of Elaine's life through... Read more
Published 16 months ago by D. Banks
4.0 out of 5 stars Rich and evocative
This is a beautifully written and well-crafted book. It is very concerned with documenting the minutiae of childhood with detailed descriptions of seemingly mundane tasks and... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mr Gordon Davidson
3.0 out of 5 stars A weak unrealistic story
This book is really composed of two halves:

- the first reads as semi-autobiographical about growing up in the 1950's. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Brian Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars Cat's Eye
The main character in this book/narrator is mid 40s - mid 50s (same age bracket as myself)and a good proportion of the book details her childhood memories. Read more
Published on 13 Jun 2012 by Mrs. Ruth Poole
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