The Cat's Table: Michael Ondaatje

Title: The Cat's Table
Author: Michael Ondaatje
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The Cat’s Table is the latest novel by Michael Ondaatje, the author known for his outstanding Booker winning novel ‘The English Patient’. I had loved ‘The English Patient’ when I had read it a decade back and when I read it again a couple of years back I loved it even more. So it was interesting for me to read ‘The Cat’s Table’ and see what Ondaatje had to say in his latest work.

The protagonist of this novel is Michael, an eleven year old boy, travelling to England to his mother. He has spent all his life in Colombo, and now heading to an unfamiliar country, to a distant mother is filling him with uncertainty. On the ship, the ocean liner Oronsay, he becomes friends with two other boys, the wild Cassius and the gentle Ramadhin. The boys form a tight group and haunt the nooks and crannies of the ship, and make friends with the crew and the other travellers. Amongst their new friends are also the travellers who are assigned to the same table as theirs, the Cat’s Table. The Cat’s table, the least privileged table on the ship, hosts an assortment of people, a spinster taking pigeons to England, a tailor, a musician, a botanist. As the ship progresses and the young trio learns more about their fellow travellers, they realize that life can be very complex and most simple people can carry fascinating stories hidden in them. With their new knowledge and experiences the boys make a tentative entry into adulthood as they reach the shores of England.    

The Cat’s Table is a deceptively complex novel. It starts off slowly, simply, showing us the assortment of the people on board the Oronsay. Ondaatje’s prose is powerful enough to keep the reader engaged in the slow unfolding of the characters. Then very gradually the story becomes layered, unlikely links are formed and unexpected events occur. It is this part of the novel that I enjoyed the most, the gradual build-up of the events, and the increasing complexity of the relationships. It was interesting to see the individual characters become part of a greater story.

In conclusion: I enjoyed the slow progression of the novel and Ondaatje’s beautiful prose. It was wonderful to experience the geography of the Oronsay’s journey with Ondaatje.

Book Source: Self


Shalaka Coolkarni said...

Seems like an interesting book! Your reviews are very concise too! Another book to read in my list!

Nivedita Barve said...

Thanks Shalaka :)

Komal said...

Every review of yours makes me want to read that book instantly. U have great word prowess. Keep writing. :)

Nivedita Barve said...

Thanks Komal!
I am sure it is the power of these wonderful books that makes you want to read them :)
Have you read anything interesting lately?