Cat's Eye - Margaret Atwood

October 12, 2018

5 / 5 Stars


A brilliant examination of a life, relationships and musings upon the meaning of it all.

Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors. I can't think of any other writer who captures the honesty of something in so few words; and who is so unafraid to write about genuine reactions and responses to situations. 

Cat's Eye is about Elaine Risley, and her life before becoming a famous artist. In particular, it focuses on her relationships with her brother, her childhood friends, and her lovers. Of these, the exploration of female friendships at a young age is particularly brutally authentic. The book doesn't rose-tint this relationship at all - rather, it highlights the casual cruelty that is so often part of young girls' friendships. 

In many ways, this book reminded me of a female Citizen Kane; the rise of a young woman from anonymity, with examinations into her past and how she came to be this way. Her 'rosebud' in this case is the 'cat's eye' - a special marble that she treasures. The marble becomes a symbol of trust throughout the book, and as a reader, we're invited to ponder on its relevance, just as people ponder on Elaine's artwork and try to draw meaning from it. 

That was what was so clever about it - it raises the question about how much we really know those around us; how well we can ever know someone, even if we're viewing something as personal as their paintings. Ultimately, all those experiences that shape us are our own private matter - and very few people really know or understand them.

As ever, a very thought-provoking book from Margaret Atwood; perhaps not as much an immediate classic as The Blind Assassin or Oryx and Crake, but more a slow-burning book that stays with you for a while after.

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