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Cat’s Eye

October 22, 2009

Margaret Atwood’s “Cat’s Eye” is one of the best pieces of writing I have read in a long time. I picked it up in the local book store, looking for some summer reading. I had just learned about Atwood in two different courses and was interested in reading one of her novels. I decided on “Cat’s Eye” because it seemed to be good timing for reading the book. It is the story of a middle-aged artist, Elaine, who returns to her hometown of Toronto for a retros

pective of her art. As she wanders around Toronto she is confronted by her past. While I am not as far removed from my hometown yet, I have been dealing with the same emotions and thoughts of returning to the place where I have grown up, and forced to realize how much things have changed.

Roughly the first half of the book is a rich narrative of her childhood, which I consider the strongest part of the book. It was almost eery how accurate her details were. Although Elaine’s story is unique, the way Atwood has written it makes it a timeless tale of girlhood that will touch everyone who reads it. I was left with such a vivid portrait of life in Toronto in the forties and fifties that I felt as if I had lived it myself. And Elaine’s voice is so authentic I had difficulty remembering that I was not, in fact, reading Atwood’s memoir, but a piece of fiction.

As we grow up with Elaine we encounter the world of feminism and art in the sixties. We enter more adult relationships and struggles. This half of the book is interesting as well, but in a different way. It is less about the narrative style of Elaine’s childhood but of discussing theories and values of the issues people faced during this time. I feel it would have been beneficial to return to the rich storytelling here as well. I found the section on childhood to be retrospectively therapeutic and I wouldn’t have minded some counseling on the issues I am facing at this time in my life as well. However, I still related surprisingly well to almost every aspect of this book.

“Cat’s Eye” was one of those rare books that forced me to reconsider my life as I have lived it so far and what I am about to encounter, to look around at the world and see it in new light. It felt, page after page after page, that this book was written just for me. It was also one of those agonizing books that was so well written you wish you were the one who had written it first. I know I am not the first to rave about Margarat Atwood’s talents or “Cat’s Eye” in particular, but I fear she may be looked over and forgotten by my generation and I think that is a sacrifice we can not dare to make.

Originally written June 22, 2008

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