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Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

By Teabelly | Books | June 18, 2009 |

By Teabelly | Books | June 18, 2009 |

When it comes to Margaret Atwood I tend to cling to The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin and not venture much into her other work. Since I love her writing that’s kinda silly, so I picked this one up. It follows artist Elaine Risley from her childhood in 40s and 50s Canada, to her middle age as a well-known painter. As a child she befriends Cordelia, but she and two other girls alternate between being nice to her, and making her life a misery. They drift apart until their teens when they become friends again, but Elaine doesn’t really remember Cordelia’s earlier actions. Though as adults they see little of each other, Elaine thinks of her old friend often, and when she goes back to her childhood home for a showing of her art, she can’t help but be slightly haunted by her.

This is definitely not one of my favorites of Atwood’s. I feel a bit bad for not liking it more, but I’m afraid it did become a bit of a chore to pick up. I enjoyed the parts of Elaine’s childhood and found how she is treated then by Cordelia to be the most interesting. Atwood is able to make you empathize greatly with the young Elaine, and understand why she puts up with it, but at the same time you can’t wait for her to stand up for herself. Cordelia is hateful, but since the adults around her are poisonous she’s feeding off this and ultimately gets their approval, which seriously makes you angry.

Elaine as an adult dragged at times. Atwood writes beautifully, it’s true, but I found myself skipping huge amounts of text that felt as if it wasn’t telling me anything. The novel is told from the first person and you’re constantly in Elaine’s head, and that’s quite a stifling place to be at times. I don’t know how I feel about her as a narrator. As a child I can feel sorry for her but as an adult I’m not sure I like her very much, or know whether I’m supposed to.

I didn’t feel there was much resolution, either. Maybe that’s the point, but she spends so much of her time thinking about Cordelia and thinking she’s seen her, and then…nothing. It’s not a terrible book by any means, it just didn’t do anything for me. I didn’t find it moving, or very thought provoking, it just seemed to keep going and going for no real reason. It’s very possible I have missed the point, but I am happy to stick with my two favorites for a while after reading this.

This book is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of teabelly’s reviews, check out her blog, Teabelly’s Place.

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