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The Cat's Table (Center Point Platinum Fiction (Large Print)) [Large Print] [Hardcover]

Michael Ondaatje
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
Price: £22.40 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Hardcover, Large Print £22.40  
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Book Description

Nov 2011 Center Point Platinum Fiction (Large Print)

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.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Center Point; Lrg edition (Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611732247
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611732245
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 14.9 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,316,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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`a style to be treasured for the risks it takes with language' --Literary Review

`atmospheric, elegiac and at times, like Ondaatje's most famous novel, The English Patient, unbearably poignant'

`The Cat's Table deserves to be recognized for the beauty and poetry of its writing: pages that lull you with their carefully constructed rhythm, sailing you effortlessly from chapter to chapter and leaving you bereft when forced to disembark at the novel's end.' --Telegraph

`Ondaatje's great achievement is demonstrating that fiction can be stranger than truth' --Spectator

`an eloquent, elegiac tribute to the game of youth and how it shapes what follows... Ultimately, Ondaatje has created a beautiful and poetic study here of what it means to have your very existence metaphorically, as well as literally, all at sea.' --The Independent on Sunday

: `No one who has read a novel or poem by Ondaatje can easily forget its powerful imagery. In this, too, the new novel is characteristic... Ondaatje admits in an author's note that, although The Cat's Table is a work of fiction, it has "the colouring and locations of memoir and autobiography". This may explain why his wondrous prose feels more alive to the world than ever before'. --Financial Times

`The Cat's Table is surely a success... because every page exhibits traces of Ondaatje's poetical cast of mind - his feeling for beauty, his sense of strangeness, and his ability to create a distinctive and pervasive emotional atmosphere.' --New Statesman

`one of the most admirable and enthralling literary novels of the year' --Daily Mail

`an interesting variation on the rite-of-passage genre' --Metro

`superbly poised between the magic of innocence and the melancholy of experience' --The Economist

`Woven through all of this are the memories of a vanished past; a mental and physical innocence in a once carefree place that no longer exists in Sri Lanka's complicated and brutal metamorphosis. The Ondaatjes themselves come from an old Burgher family and have always been outsiders to the main struggle between Singhalese and Tamils. As a result, in The Cat's Table, we are shown a place of luminous magic and make-believe... beautifully crafted' --The Independent

`Ondaatje has hit the nail on the head with this book, a beautiful analysis of transient subjects of gazes, dreams and memory.' --TimeOut

`The author of The English Patient conjures up a cast of eccentric and fascinating characters.' --Psychologies Magazine

`Michael Ondaatje's impressive new novel, containing dreams and fantasy between a ship's, in the most etymological way, a wonderful novel: one full of wonders.' --Daily Telegraph Review Supplement

`the novel tells of a journey from childhood to the adult world, as well as a passage from the homeland to another country, something of a Dantean experience. The constriction of space intensifies a sense of allegory as a frame surrounding a painting.' --Saturday Guardian --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

From the acclaimed author of The English Patient and In the Skin of a Lion: a stunningly beautiful and moving new novel about a boy's life-changing journey from Ceylon to England in the 1950s. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dreamlike 11 Jan 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As ever with Ondaatje you get a beautifully written, complexly structured novel, which is easy and pleasurable to read. This novel is even easier since it is so short but fails to be quite as engaging as some of his other works. Some of that can perhaps be put down to the style which is intentionally languid to simulate the dissociation of a three week sea voyage, but is intercut with intersecting stories which spin out into the past and future to significantly widen the scope of the book. As other reviewers have pointed out it does take some time to get going but once the disparate strands begin to weave back in together it becomes difficult to put down. I would definitely recommend but would sugges "In the Skin of a Lion" as the better introduction to Ondaatje's work.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow and dreamlike 23 Oct 2011
By Julia Flyte TOP 50 REVIEWER
This is the story of a three week journey in 1954 from Ceylon to England by sea. Michael is 11, and is leaving the only country he has ever known. Travelling alone, he quickly befriends two other boys of his age and the three of them spend the weeks exploring the ship, spying on their fellow passengers and generally getting up to mischief. Despite the fact that there are many similarities between the author's own story and the fictional Michael, this is apparently fictional. The book has a dreamy, timeless quality - the journey seems much longer than three weeks, which is probably how it would have felt to an 11 year old. Events that happened for a few days would stretch in the memory. The narrator himself comments that his memory is unreliable, which heightens the sense of unreality that permeates the pages.

I'm finding it very hard to know how to rate this book. It's short and easy enough to read, but it took me almost a month to get through. The writing is beautiful, even poetic, but there is very little in the way of a plot. Instead we get little vignettes about this passenger or that passenger, which are pleasant but never gave me the urge to pick the book up again and to read more. Towards the end some of the disparate strands do come together, but I think what will stay with me is not the characters, nor the storyline, but the impressions of a particular place in time. I'm glad I read it, but it's not a book I would hand to a friend and say "you must read this".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The journey of a boy 6 Sep 2012
Michael Ondaatje writes prose with a the eye of a poet. In this book, written in the first person, he is an 11 year old Michael who travels in three weeks on a boat from Colombo to England. He spends his time with his new found friends, and they all eat at the cat's table, that it the table the furthest removed from the captain's table in the mess.

From that table we get to the plots and the subplots, with the shy Ramadhin, the daredevil Cassius, the violinist without a face, the unknown prisoner, the beautiful Emily, and so many other people.

Eleven years old is a spot where we all once were, a devilishly difficult age to remember and describe. Just at the end of childhood, it is a pre-sex presence, in which one accepts (mostly) whatever happens without moral grandstanding, with issues that do not involve much of the world.

The place of action is a limited space. The ship is a metal island with a varied society, but then Michael is at the Cat's table and largely out of sight of the big names on the ship. In his story, and that is remarkable for me, used as I am to Indian writers, musings about one's identity are absent. Identity is a creed of insecurity, in which even achievement can only be described as the result of overcoming odds. In this book people are seen in the space they are in. They are on a ship going from one island to another. Ceylon (Sri Lanka) is continuously there in the people Michael knows. Sri Lanka also is the background given at the beginning with the view of Colombo by night, with its temperature only slightly lower than the heat of the day. The streets with their yellow lights are quiet, empty already before the departure of the ship and the morning when he will not be there.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shimmering prose, but where's the story? 9 July 2012
I'll start by saying that I think Ondaatje is a great writer, and for me, The English Patient is firmly in my top 10 all time best books. This book still has shimmering, delightful prose, and there is no mistaking Ondaatje's touch. Indeed, as a piece of writing, of itself, the book is both magical, and enchanting. But this isn't enough to hold together a fragmented, poorly realised, and uninteresting narrative, which ultimately doesn't go anywhere. Worst of all, I felt reading it, like I really couldn't bring myself to care about any of the characters - and when a book doesn't engage in what, on the face of it is intended to be a very human story, then something has gone wrong somewhere. Whilst the book has the feel of a magical, dreamlike state, this begins to grate pretty quickly, and the saccharin tinged feel is more Hollywood than a writer of Ondaatje's depth of talent should be turning out. Told as a series of short vignettes, the story is not substantial enough to hold the weight of the concepts it seems Ondaatje wants to unfold, and irritates with it's sketch like nature. The modern day elements seem stilted, and disjointed, and don't connect enough with the underlying story to provide the great revelations that might be expected. So overall, it is hard to like as a story - but, as I say, some of Ondaatje's prose is so sharp, so precise, and so brilliant, that it shines from the page. On that basis, Ondaatje has produced something of merit - but just don't read it looking for, or expecting a great story, or for that matter a great revelatory examination of the human psyche, because this is just too light to pull that off.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Hmmm. Not sure about this tale, a bit disappointing.
Published 1 month ago by Moby Dick
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by Mrs D M Grimley
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting in parts.
This was a strange novel. At times it was languid and philosophical and there was not much action. Some characters were interesting while others were less so. Read more
Published 3 months ago by lindsey
3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual but thought provoking.
Michael Ondaatje’s novel, like one of his other ones, The English Patient, in not written in the style of a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Discerning Reader
3.0 out of 5 stars A writers book in which the plot runs out of steam
Not tried anything by this author since The English Patient.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Chris Pearson
3.0 out of 5 stars Book club read
Not a lot of dialogue......wasn't too inspired. Maybe I will try it again in the future...others may like it but I found it awkward.
Published 5 months ago by m d hardie
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, charming and well-written
This is an account of a boy's journey by ship to England in the 1950s, written from the child's point of view. Read more
Published 7 months ago by @JanEllis_writer
2.0 out of 5 stars strange book
Not sure if I enjoyed this book, strange characters and plot, resulting in an overall confused feel to it. Wouldn't recommend it.
Published 7 months ago by Wonder Woman
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cat's Table Michael Ondaatje
A wonderful feat, capturing splendidly the rather random thoughts and attitudes of young boys. Splendid descriptions of sights and smells.
Published 8 months ago by Barbara Laurie
3.0 out of 5 stars Voyage of Formative Adventures
The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
is written from the perspective of three boys who are travelling from Asia to Europe and stopping along the way at strategic ports. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Carmel Antoinette Dunne
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