Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje

The Cat's TableThe Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my favorite of the books shortlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize. It follows the journey of Michael, an 11 year old traveling on an ocean liner in the 1950s from Sri Lanka to England. The characters are interesting, and the story is interspersed with Michael in his adult life. Some moments really stick out as being very memorable, one in particular for me - the letter Perinetta writes to Emily, and still wants to give her decades later, assuming (correctly) that she is still ending up in bad relationships.

This is an interesting portrayal of immigrant culture from the infrequently mentioned Sri Lanka, and the long-lasting nature of unlikely friendships.

Michael Ondaatje is best known for The English Patient, a book I've never read and a movie I've never seen.  I do seem to own the piano version of the soundtrack, however (it figures).  I have read Anil's Ghost, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2000, but don't remember liking the characters nearly as much as I did in this most recent novel.  The story was considerably darker.  I also plan to read Running in the Family for my Around the World challenge next year, his memoir of returning to Sri Lanka after decades away.  I think Ondaatje's writing experience is clear in this novel.

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