I picked up my copy of Cat’s Eye back in December of 2011 and I’ve waited WAY too long to read it. I’ve been looking at my bookshelves thinking I needed to read more of those books and so I went back to my list and looked at the oldest on there and this was one of them.
I’m glad I read this because every time I read a another Margaret Atwood novel I ask myself why in the hell I waited so long between novels. I’m doubly glad I read this as it’s kept my belief that the short and long list booker prizes are more approachable than the winners. I haven’t read the 1989 winner yet, it’s Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, and it could break that streak with how much of an impact Never Let Me Go left on me.
I think what has always drawn me to Atwood are her strong female characters, her awesome speculative fiction, and what seems like her fascination with age and aging. I thought it was weird at first, but then I realized that some of these novels I’m reading from the late 80s were when Atwood was already in her late-40s/early-50s. So it made a lot more sense when I realized that.
Where Atwood keeps me coming back is her characters. I felt that Elaine, the main character of this novel, was so well written and identifiable that even though I’m a man in my 30s I could identify with her as both a young girl and an older woman. I mean if you can write a character that says this,
“…we are the establishment now, such as it is. or that’s what we must look like. Once the people I knew died of suicide and motorcycle crashes and other forms of violence. Now it’s diseases: heart attacks, cancer, the betrayals of the body. The world is being run by people my age, men my age, with falling-out hair and health worries, and it frightens me. When the leaders were older than me I could believe in their wisdom, I could believe they had transcended rage and malice and the need to be loved. Now I know better. I look at faces in newspapers, in magazines, and wonder: what greeds, what furies drive them on?” (289)
and embody so much of the thoughts that I have on what seems like a constant basis these days. It’s just like wow right? And Atwood puts things into words that I am unable to comprehend, things that I want to be able to say and feelings that I have that she really is my spirit animal.
Like take for example Elaine’s interactions with her childhood “friends,” Atwood just nails the feelings and emotions with such specific intensity:
“Hatred would have been easier. With hatred, I would have known what to do. Hatred is clear, metallic, one-handed, unwavering; unlike love.” (132)
And then there’s Elaine’s childhood observation of an Indian man and how she feels like such a foreigner in her own life and home that she identifies more with him than anyone else.
“Nevertheless I can hardly believe he’s a man, he seems so unlike one. He’s a creature more like myself: alien and apprehensive. He’s afraid of us.” (143)
Of course add in the politics and feminism that Atwood includes in a lot of her novels and especially the “accidental feminism” Elaine comes into with her retrospective and her first group show with other women and what she paints. I just enjoyed this novel
Recommendation: I really shouldn’t wait so long between Atwood books as she is such a prolific writer (her website), I have a few more on my shelf so expect to see more soon! I enjoyed this one so much more than I thought I would, even after hearing some people say they didn’t enjoy this one. I think it reminded me so much of the tangential Canadian version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or at least Francie, the main character. [Sorry for the scattered review, I’m catching up on a few books and I’ve been distracted recently. Let’s suffice to say I really enjoyed this book.]
Opening Line: “Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space.”
Closing Line: “It’s old light, and there’s not much of it. But it’s enough to see by.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)