The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje
“In the early 1950s in Ceylon an eleven-year-old boy is put alone aboard a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the insignificant “cat’s table”–as far from the Captain’s table as can be–with two other lonely boys and a small group of strange fellow passengers: one appear to be a shadowy figure from the British Secret Service; another a mysterious thief; another seems all to familiar with the dangerous ways of women and crime. On the long sea voyage across the Indian Ocean and through the Suez Canal, the three boys rush from one wild adventure and startling discovery to another, experiencing the first stirrings of desire, spying at night on a notorious shackled prisoner, moving easily between the decks and holds of the ship. As the secretive adult world is slowly revealed to them, they realize that a drama is unfolding on the ship, and the prisoner’s crime and fate will be galvanizing mystery that will haunt them and link them forever.”
I would like to know who writes these summaries, and furthermore, if they have even read the book before writing this summary! I understand that you want to draw a reader in, but lulling them into a false sense of adventure and giving descriptions that aren’t theirs to reveal is rather annoying.
A young boy boards a ship to England. There are many different characters who appear throughout the novel, some minor and other major. Each person has their own reason for traveling, some more secretive than others.
I’ll admit I didn’t really care for this book starting off. I found it daunting to lose interest within the first quarter of the novel, knowing I would have to finish the rest of it. Once the adventures (adventure being a grand term for the events that take place) gain momentum, the story begins to draw you in. There are constant interruptions where the narrator goes between varying pasts and present, which create these lulls of lost interest. Personally I was more interested in the other characters on the ship, going more into their lives and secrets. I was left wanting more of their histories and futures that were never revealed. These people who have had such an impact on the narrator who become ghosts. Ondaatje is a great writer and his words seem to flow seamlessly creating intricate verses, which at times seem to go on forever.
I think I jumped on this book as part of the discounted online boxing day deals on Chapters.ca. The roller coaster ride of interest and boredom could easily be avoided by someone making a summarized story of the exciting bits of the story and leaving out the dull. You would gain all thats positive from the book, and not miss out on much. The majority of the lulls are present yammers of the narrator who holds on to this journey as the only exciting thing that has happened in his life, while the relationships surrounding him fade away. Sadly, I do not recommend that you read this book, despite the low price point.