Posted by: beansai | June 30, 2007

Because Skunkie said so…

My good friend Skunkie was giving me crap about trying to convince her to read some books I have been recommending, because I didn’t have any reviews up on LitBit. She rightly stated that I couldn’t convince people to start reading again if I didn’t get some reviews out there to intrigue everyone’s literary curiosity. So without further ado, here is my review on Margaret Atwood’s novel Cat’s Eye:

Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite modern writers, and let me tell you, I am picky about modern writers. I first encountered her work in a class at the university I attend and I have been hooked from the first book. My most recent read of her works is the novel Cat’s Eye.

This book follows the life re-telling of a female artist named Elaine, that was raised in Toronto, Canada toward the end of World War II. The reader follows her through present day and flash backs, gathering the story of her life and the people that have influenced her artwork. Like memories so often are, we experience Elaine’s memories sporadically, picking up and leaving off at moments that are natural in the pause of thought, but depending on the memory there are also the occasional abrupt cut-offs and little teasers that keep you reading for more.

Atwood does an amazing job in re-creating the era of this book and the profound changes that were taking shape in the several decades that this novel spans. This is a moving tale of damaging and loving relationships with friends, family, and lovers. The main character is intense and straightforward, but likable from the intimate perspective we are granted on her life, because we can see beneath the foundation of her making and understand why she chooses the paths she does. I found the experiences of fitting in at school in new cities and adjusting from grade school to high school hauntingly reminiscent of my own experiences and this quickly fastened my sympathy and compassion for the main character; you learn to love those she loves and feel anger towards the characters that cause pain and frustration within her.

By the end of the novel there is an aura of solemnly accepted finality. Elaine has come to terms with the memories of difficult times and lost people that haunt her. There is a sense of relief, but also the forced knowledge that we all age and everyone we love and ourselves will eventually succumb to the passing of life. I admit, I am a sucker for happy endings and while I would never change this ending, it was a bit of a pill for me to swallow, because it is so honest and true to life.

As always Atwood is not happy simply telling a compelling and emotionally packed story, she also includes angles of satire and irony. Atwood is tactful in her way of inputting opinions on our social dysfunction of past and current times. They are not obvious outright opinions of the author, but well infused into the characters and subtly strong in their presence. For example there is a scene when Elaine is a young girl of about ten years old and she is at her friends house after joining them to church (Elaine’s own family are not church goers) when she heads upstairs to use the restroom and hears her friend’s mom and aunt discussing how she is a heathen and all of her work to memorize her bible studies are pointless, because at heart she is already corrupted. Not only is this claimed by supposedly Christian women, but the mother sees Elaine, realizing that she has heard everything, and is unapologetic. The intense revelation of the young girl in the face of this hypocrisy is understated, but pronounced later on in her life through her artwork.

This beautiful work is driven not only by the poignant emotions of the characters but the attention to detail in the settings and time period. The imagination is also immensely peaked through the fully developed characters that range from one end of the spectrum to the other and in between as well as the care given over to the images of the main character’s artwork. I always enjoy the complexity and intricacies of Margaret Atwood’s novels, but if you are looking for an easier and quickly relatable start, I think this book is the way to go. The layers are definitely there, but they are not at all difficult to swallow in their believability. Trust me, this is more than worth the read as are any of Atwood’s novels.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: