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Cat's Eye

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  42,363 Ratings  ·  2,279 Reviews
"Cat's Eye" is the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own ...more
Paperback, 462 pages
Published January 20th 1998 by Anchor (first published 1988)
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Julie The term comes from something that actual bulls do to each other if too many are kept in too small a space, such as in large scale animal farming…moreThe term comes from something that actual bulls do to each other if too many are kept in too small a space, such as in large scale animal farming operations. They will gang up on the weakest bull and (by ways I will not describe here) eventually kill him. This phenomenon is explained in detail in Temple Grandin's (non-fiction) book "Animals Make Us Human," and probably also in her "Humane Livestock Handling" which last one I have not read. (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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i know for a fact that books were written and published after this one, but i can't for the life of me understand why.
I look at the progression of 5-star ratings by friends - mostly women - and wonder if it is a womanly weakness to rate a book 5 stars which deconstructs the world from the female perspective? Is this visceral urge something to be ashamed of, something you must suppress to show due deference to 'standards' of literary appraisal?

But then why don't I feel conflicted enough while handing out my 5 stars to those modern masterpieces written mostly by dead, white men? All those narrative voices that b
What it's about

"We are survivors of each other. We have been shark to one another, but also lifeboat. That counts for something."

The power of abusive friendships and relationships is the theme of this book, though not all the relationships are tainted, so it's not depressing and at times it's quite amusing (e.g. discerning the mysteries of puberty).

There is also a fair bit about art and artists, with a dash of early feminism.

Plot structure

Elaine is an artist in her late fifties/early sixties
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Aug 10, 2016 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature

It's a little tough-going to talk about this book, because the description makes it sound so Ya-Ya Sisterhood chick-lit. Girl/girl friendships, coming of age, an assembly-line presentation of messy sexual relationships, dadurdydurr. It's sad that a simple outline of the plot could potentially close off 50% (or more) of the population's interest in reading this book, because unlike her speculative fiction, this is less a plot-driven novel reveling in world-building, and more of a parade of
Dec 04, 2013 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2007
"Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise."

Simply put, I worship this book.

Cat’s Eye follows the controversial painter Elaine as she reflects upon her childhood and younger years when she returns to Toronto (the city of her youth) for a retrospective of her works. Her reflections stir up memories of friendship, longing, betrayal, love, hate, and pain. Especially haunting are her memories of Cordelia, a childhood friend with whom she had a co
Jul 29, 2015 Phrynne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always enjoy Margaret Atwood' s books and this is not an exception. In fact this one is quite amazingly interesting. It revolves around the memories of the main character, Elaine who recalls her friendships as a young girl. It becomes apparent that she was bullied quite severely by her young friends and one of them in particular. As the story progresses we find that in the end Elaine escapes from the bullying and eventually even turns the tables. The bullied becomes the bully. It is a sad stor ...more
Debbie "DJ"
Aug 28, 2014 Debbie "DJ" rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
Nearly impossible to write a review for such a masterful work as this. All I can do is write some of my thoughts while reading this. It's like a psychological character study. It's the feelings that are evoked. Everything is full of descriptions, the meaning belongs to the reader. Atwood brings me to the brink, then pulls back leaving me with a sense of uneasiness. Our lives can only be interpreted by us. Which of my own memories have been blocked, or purposely left unremembered only to surface ...more
Nov 28, 2011 Mariel rated it liked it
Recommends it for: barbarism begins at home
Recommended to Mariel by: doll house
Cordelia: Hey! You think I'm never lonely because I'm so cute and popular? I can be surrounded by people and be completely alone. It's not like any of them really know me. I don't even know if they like me half the time. People just want to be in a popular zone. Sometimes when I talk, everyone's so busy agreeing with me, they don't hear a word I say.
Buffy: Well, if you feel so alone, then why do you work so hard at being popular?
Cordelia: Well, it beats being alone all by yourself.
(from Buffy th
There is still a wide-eyed teenager living inside me, and this book makes my melty twee little heart break and sing in equal measure. When I was 16 and read it for the first time, that was as close to a transcendental experience as I've ever had. Since then, I have re-read it roughly twenty thousand times, always whenever I need to just submerge myself in drenching beauty and angst.
Sep 09, 2016 Maxwell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've yet to be disappointed by any of Margaret Atwood's stories. She has such a keen sense of the human experience, a strong skill of observation, and she comments so wonderfully on these insights that I am moved and troubled in reading her works. She forces me to think about my individual experience as well as its reflection in light of our connected humanity.

Cat's Eye follows Elaine Risley, an elderly woman, famous for her controversial paintings, as she prepares for a retrospective show of he
Not a re-read. Instead I was walking home, today. The air was warm, muggy. Generally I try and concentrate on my feet. This, I say to myself, this is the moment that I am alive. Mind though has a tendency to go were it will. So instead I remembered this book, which does from time to time nag at me on the edges of my conscious mind, and thought the following.

A fine late twentieth century example of the Bildungsroman, thoroughly Wordsworthian - the child is the Father of the Man (view spoiler)
Chris Dietzel
Mar 30, 2016 Chris Dietzel rated it it was amazing
Until now, Surfacing was my favorite non-dystopian book by Atwood. Cat's Eye now claims that spot. There were parts of this that were so honest and awkward in their depiction of children being cruel to each other that it was uncomfortable to read. Atwood does an amazing job of providing a main character who is not necessarily an unreliable narrator but who is definitely an unaware narrator. And yet the author finds ways to convey subtle ideas of just how unaware that narrator is without ruining ...more
So what do you do when you're a girl and you have this peculiar friend, who is also your worst abuser, but for some reason you hang out with her, go to the same school and all that jazz? Why, you become a controversial painter, get involved with some creepy men, and then sort of go on from there. Good thing your brother is a semi-genius fascinated with spacetime and all its promises, and your dad is this entomologist who travels all over the country with his family. We don't want things to be ...more
Karly *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)*

DBR, you say?? OKAY!!!

With full disclosure I have to admit this is not actually my first DBR, it comes in after both Ryker's Burden Kansas and Cohen's Beautiful Losers. Something about books I love apparently makes booziness happen, hmmmmmm....

There are times that I am loath to tell people where I'm from, not because I don't like it, I do!! Canada is a truly lovely place to live and I have been blessed with a life of much happiness here, it's because when I say I'm from Canada I always get that
Jun 08, 2015 Eh?Eh! rated it it was amazing
The cruelty of young girls. Short segments (a page or three long each) plaited together. Ranges from what's happening now to what happened then, back and forth. Memory is faulty but the cuts carry on.
Knowing too much about other people puts you in their power, they have a claim on you, you are forced to understand their reasons for doing things and then you are weakened.

I disagree. But I see how it can become someone's truth.
Dec 23, 2014 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Upon rereading in 2011: I have little to add, except to say that it was even more astonishing on the second-go-round.


I have no words (well, in a manner of speaking) to describe my love for this book. I finished it really, really late the other night after a night out with some friends and was completely overwhelmed. It's taken me a few days to review it, just because of how emotionally devastating the book is.

Cat's Eye (from the almost-always-fabulous Atwood) is less a narrative than a glimps
Jan 28, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it
I hate to be the guy who ruins the joke, but it's impossible to seriously judge Canadian literature without acknowledging that Canada is not a real place. It's a funny little conceit, but it's stretching plausibility a bit far to pretend that there's some enormous country right on top of the United States where gay marriage is legal* and we totally never invade it at all.

It's not a country, okay? It's just some dude in Minnesota with a big back yard.

Glad we got that out of the way.

Anyway, but t
Oh, the little games girls play on each other. They scheme, they gossip and they either ostracise or bully those whom they feel don't belong to their little circle, inflicting untold damage with their whisperings and indirectness. That, in a nutshell, is the subject of Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye, as memorable an account of childhood angst and cruelty as any I've read.

Cat's Eye is the story of Elaine Risley, a middle-aged artist who returns to the city where she grew up, Toronto, for a retrospec

Took a while to get into this. I didn't really like the back and forth narration between the past and present (it didn't flow very well), also the main character (Elaine) irked me quite a lot.

I hated the 'present-day' Elaine, I was only really invested in Elaine's character when she was a child/teen, those chapters were great. Young Elaine's personality, surroundings and relationships were fascinating to read about, especially the parts which focused on her complicated friendships with
Elham Kharidar
Jan 11, 2016 Elham Kharidar rated it liked it
I liked this book very much: I think I have never read a book in my life so comprehensive and heartwarming about the ups and downs and stories of a girl's life as a child, teenager, and a young woman. I liked those parts about her friends - especially Cordelia - and the effects of their behaviors on her future life and work. Perhaps many of us had a friend like Cordelia in our life that her behaviors (her cruel behaviors) sometimes made a dark spot in our personality such that as we grew up we ...more
Nov 08, 2016 Perry rated it really liked it
Recommended to Perry by: Robin
Shelves: circle
Hate-mongering, tweet-spewing, p****y-grabbing, orange-headed, sexist, litigious, xenophobic, disabled-mocking, rughaired, trigger-happy, narcissistic bully with the temperament and tolerance of Stalin and the populist appeal of Adolf H

UPDATE: Nov. 8, 2016, 11:20 p.m., CST
I've tried to access the Canadian immigration site for the past hour and find it down. I see now that it has crashed from abnormally high traffic.

Tips on Canadian immigration will be appreciated. I am not joking. So please. I
Dec 05, 2007 Gwen rated it liked it
This one did not live up to my Atwood expectations after Blind Assassin and Handmaid's Tale. The narrator spent way too much time lamenting her aging self and by page 445 I had no sympathy for her. The flashbacks to her childhood and adolescence were enthralling and at times visceral. Her younger self was well explicated and felt very real to me; the older Elaine felt flat. Every comment she made was about how old she was, how everything had changed, how she used to do this or act that way. I ...more
Dec 11, 2008 Ellen rated it it was ok
I know people who have very specific conditions for books they read -- one who doesn't like any book that portrays adultery in a positive light, another who hates anything in first person. I like to think I don't have any of these, but that's kind of a lie: I hate passive characters.

Elaine's the most passive character in any book I can remember reading this year, and she's the protagonist and narrator to boot. She just sat around and waited for the book to happen to her, and meanwhile I'm readin
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Oct 03, 2010 Shannon (Giraffe Days) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2010
Margaret Atwood has written a lot of books, and for me they fall into one of two camps: either I've read it, or I know nothing about it. Cat's Eye was one novel I only learnt about a few years ago. First I came across a quoted passage from it in another book - I want to say it was Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, but I can't find it to be sure (my other option is Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, but she doesn't cite it in her list of recommended reading so now I'm not s ...more
Mar 07, 2008 Sheila rated it really liked it
Having read The Handmaid's Tale, and loving it, and reading The Robber Bride, and not loving it (at all), I was unsure how I would feel about my third Margaret Atwood tale.

While not being able to immerse myself into the story as quickly or as deeply as The Handmaid's Tale, I found the book to instead be a slow burn, gradually drawing me in and not letting go until the end.

In Cat's Eye, Atwood's protagonist reflects on the development of relationships between women (girls) in all their complexi
Jul 05, 2008 Nikki rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary
The writing in this book reminds me quite a lot of Atwood's writing style in The Handmaid's Tale: it feels contemplative, half-dreamy, slower than life. It also reminds me a bit of The Bell Jar, somehow.

The way this book was structured was the most interesting thing for me: the past blending with the present, the present fading back into the past. Another interesting thing was the handle Atwood has on people -- specifically, little girls. I knew a Cordelia, a Grace, a Carol. An Elaine.

It's not
Nov 16, 2007 Ruth rated it it was amazing
I’d read Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake, so I thought I had her pegged as to what kind of novelist she is. But this book has no excursions into the future and mores. It’s an in depth exploration of our experiences as children and how they shape our lives.

The story is mostly told in flashbacks. A woman comes to Toronto for a retrospective showing of her art. She hasn’t been there in many years, and now finding herself there she is awash in memories, especially those involving another
Sep 07, 2015 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: myfavorites, the-list
Margaret Atwood understands girls and how mean they can be. Case in Point: Cat's Eye. Read it, read it, read it.

Re-read September 2015.
It's been a long time since I read this. Early 1990s?

I was struck by Atwood's character's focus on the environment, with even early warnings about global warming and other perils.
(page 229:) "A lot of the time my brother doesn't seem aware of me. He's thinking about other things, solemn things that are important. He sits at the dinner table, his right hand moving
Elaine Risley, a 50-something, semi-famous woman painter, returns to her hometown for a retrospective exhibit of her work. Naturally, dark memories and ghosts of dark memories are encountered wherever she looks. Atwood uses these events to give us a retrospective of life in Toronto from the war era through to the late-80's, with all the changing attitudes, fashions, and politics of post-war North America.

Atwood has complete control of her story and characters and unrolls their actions and emotio
Jan 26, 2012 Jo rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jo by: karen
Shelves: library, 2012
On one hand, Ms Atwood deserves 5 stars.

On the other, I'd say my actual enjoyment of this book was more of a 3.

This could be because this book is a book that should be devoured in one go and not, as I did, picked at.

Or because I'm a literary heathen.

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Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, childr
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“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” 2245 likes
“Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. It's like the tide going out, revealing whatever's been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones. This is the kind of thing you see if you sit in the darkness with open eyes, not knowing the future.” 2024 likes
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