The Cat's Table

By Michael Ondaatje
(Vintage Books, Paperback, 9780307744418, 269pp.)

Publication Date: June 12, 2012

List Price: $15.95*
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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Fall '12 Reading Group List
“In a story of intricate delicacy and beauty, Ondaatje not only tells the wondrous tale of three boys at sea -- a journey that takes them each from one world to another and into the realm of adult ways and mysteries -- but also one that has the reader in thrall to what it is to look back and remember. The Cat's Table is a luscious, bittersweet rumination on imagination, memory, and place, and what we find by reclaiming what we've lost.”
-- Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA


Description

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the “cat’s table”—as far from the Captain’s Table as can be—with a ragtag group of “insignificant” adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship crosses the Indian Ocean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another, bursting all over the place like freed mercury. But there are other diversions as well: they are first exposed to the magical worlds of jazz, women, and literature by their eccentric fellow travelers, and together they spy on a shackled prisoner, his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever. By turns poignant and electrifying, The Cat’s Table is a spellbinding story about the magical, often forbidden, discoveries of childhood, and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.




About the Author
Michael Ondaatje is a novelist and poet perhaps best known for his Booker Prize winning novel adapted into an Academy Award-winning film, The English Patient. His other books include Secular Love, In the Skin of a Lion, Running in the Family, and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. He edited From Ink Lake, a selection of Canadian stories, and has won several Governor General's Award for both fiction and poetry.


Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. The epigraph is taken from the short story “Youth” by Joseph Conrad: “And this is how I see the East.... I see it always from a small boat—not a light, not a stir, not a sound. We conversed in low whispers, as if afraid to wake up the land.... It is all in that moment when I opened my young eyes on it. I came upon it from a tussle with the sea.” How does this set up the major themes of The Cat’s Table?

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