Agreenhouse's Reviews > Cat's Eye

Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
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Jan 24, 2009

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This book has been on my must-read list for a long time, so I was very excited to finally get my hands on a copy. Unfortunately, as much as I tried, I did not love this book. The language was absolutely stunning, with scenes rendered with such poetic language and detail that I felt I was in the scene. The problem was that the scenes Atwood described were so miserable, I did not want to be there. I have never been to Toronto, and after reading this book, I never want to go. I can't imagine a more bleak, desolate place on the planet. I am sure the Canadian Tourist Bureau does not promote this book. The narrator is a depressed woman, and this book just made me feel depressed. Did Margaret Atwood ever right anything happy, or at least with a little bit of hope?

One of the reasons I wanted to read this book was it has to do with bullying among girls, and as a teacher in charge of a class full of fourth-grade mean girls, I hoped to get some insight into what happens between the children when I am not looking. The best quote of the book is "Most mothers worry when their daughters reach adolscence, but I was the opposite. I relaxed, I sighed with relief. Little girls are cure and small only to adults. To one another, they are not cute. They are life sized."

I have reminded myself of this quote during the past few weeks, confronting certain girls about their behavior, refusing to ignore or dismiss even the slightest of hurtful remarks. Before I became a teacher, I might have thought that Atwood exaggerated the cruelty among children,especially girls, but I have seen them design and carry evil schemes, soley for the sake of excluding certain students and putting themselves into positions of power. For example, two girls in my class stole the trip money from another girl because they did not want her going on the field trip. Isn't that unbelievable!!? If you saw the two little thieves, you would not believe it because they are adorable and attend church every Sunday. In Cat's Eye, the parents were either powerless to stop the bullying or accomplices to it. The story takes place in the 1940s, when the gap between the worlds of children and adults seems much greater than it is today. Back then, what happened among children, stayed among children. I am still surprised that the mother in the story did not do more to protect her child. Part of the point of the book is that the effects of the bullying haunted the narrator her whole life. She was never able to form bonds with women, and in the end, she regrets the lack of female friendships.

Another interesting "historical" element of the novel was the description of being a radical female artist in the 1970s. I realize now that I grew up in a post-feminist era because I could not see what was so radical about a group of women artists getting together to put on a show. Will the young children of today grow up in a post-racial era, not understanding the hoopla over an African-American president? I hope so.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Lili (new)

Lili I love Atwood's writing but don't always agree with her point of view. With regards to Toronto, don't allow her to inform your opinion of this city. It's worth a trip.

message 2: by Isabel (new)

Isabel My only experience of Atwood is as a poet, and her writing has a sorcery in it that reminds me of Toni Morrison's, but on the much starker side. Her book sounds intriguing from your review. Though it sounds like there were sure moments of literary tension and discomfort encountered in the reading, your review brings up issues and questions that definitely provoke a dialogue after the book ends.

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