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Cat's Eye

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  53,904 ratings  ·  3,178 reviews
Elaine Risley, a painter, returns to Toronto to find herself overwhelmed by her past. Memories of childhood - unbearable betrayals and cruelties - surface relentlessly, forcing her to confront the spectre of Cordelia, once her best friend and tormentor, who has haunted her for forty years.

'Not since Graham Greene has a novelist captured so forcefully the relationship
Paperback, Alternative Cover Edition (ISBN 9781853811265), 498 pages
Published 2002 by Virago (first published September 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)
JD It took me awhile to get through this book. To be honest,
I think it probably could have been shorter. There are parts of the novel that move right…more
It took me awhile to get through this book. To be honest,
I think it probably could have been shorter. There are parts of the novel that move right along while others kind of drag on. Though this may be due partly to the type of novel it is: a Bildungsroman. It’s supposed to depict the growth of the main character over a long period, childhood to adulthood.(less)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  53,904 ratings  ·  3,178 reviews

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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.

come to my blog!
"This is the middle of my life, I think of it as a place, like the middle of a river, the middle of a bridge, halfway across, halfway over. I'm supposed to have accumulated things by now: possessions, responsibilities, achievements, experience and wisdom. I'm supposed to be a person of substance."

The scary thing is that you stay a child inside that accumulation of life. You take your childhood with you when you enter the grown-up world, and as much as you try to pretend that you are free and
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
Aug 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"Katzenauge" is one of the many novels of the well-known Canadian author Margaret Atwood.
It is the story of two women and their friendship; a friendship that became hostility - a story about childhood, about growing up.

The style of writing is gripping, almost enthralling, so that the reader feels so close to reading so the impression arises that the narrative contains biographical features.
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, favorites
One of Atwood's more famous works of fiction, Cat's Eye is at once a meditation on the sorrows and comforts accompanying age as well as a coming-of-age story about a tumultuous and abusive bond between two young girls. The novel juxtaposes past and present against each other, via twin narratives about the protagonist's childhood and adulthood. The latter plot follows artist Elaine Risley as she returns to bustling Toronto, the city of her desolate youth, for a retrospective of her work, while ...more
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
Pity-wanting Pain

Reading Cat's Eye is like watching a film, only with smells, and taste, and touch in addition to cinematic sight and sound. Its heroine, Elaine, has all these 'outward wits' which Atwood captures magnificently. But, although Elaine is an artist, she has almost nothing of the 'inward wits' of communal sense, imagination, fantasy, estimation or memory.

The story is three dimensional: the North/South dimension of her life with her parents who migrate every year from Toronto to the
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a relative latecomer to the works of Margaret Atwood (this was my fourth book in) – she continues to impress and engage immensely.

‘Cat’s Eye’ has, like ‘The Blind Assassin’ (which it predates by around a decade) memory and memories as its central narrative device. Both novels have a central protagonist nearer to the end of their days than to the start – looking back and confronting the memories from various periods in their earlier lives. Ostensibly, that is as far as any similarity goes –
Paquita Maria Sanchez

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
Julie Ehlers
When I finished Cat's Eye the other night I had goosebumps and they didn't go away immediately. I paced around my living room for a while, rubbing my arms. I didn't quite know what I was feeling and I still don't. I don't think I've ever read such a deep dive into a character before, where we get to see how a character's childhood and upbringing affects the trajectory of her entire life. In some ways this book is about how women relate to themselves and one another in a sexist society, but it ...more
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Her greatest story, about childhood bullying amid seemingly innocent play and the dire consequences, also has wonderful things to say about siblings, a brother and a sister's relationship, and marriage.
Glenn Sumi
The annual Santa Claus Parade trotted and pranced through downtown Toronto a couple of Sundays ago, and while it was going on I thought of Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye.

Although I read the book – considered a highlight of Atwood’s middle period – more than two months ago, the image of protagonist Elaine and her frenemies watching the parade from her entomologist-father’s office at the University of Toronto stuck with me. While passing the big boulevard of University Avenue, I even looked up at a
May 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Debbie "DJ"
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
We have just started reading another historic Booker shortlist in The Mookse and the Gripes group. This time the year is 1989, and although The Remains of the Day is one of my favourite Booker winners, this one must have come pretty close.

The narrator is Elaine, an artist who has returned from a new life in Vancouver to Toronto, the city where she spent most of her formative years, to attend and supervise a career retrospective exhibition.

Each of the book's sections begins with a short
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reads, fiction
I read this not too long after reading Alexander Chee's How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays because this was one of his favorite novels whose form he discussed. I wanted to see how Margaret Atwood deconstructs time and memory. I wasn't disappointed. Time is deliberate and audacious in this novel. It is not alluded to by chapter headings or by a change in tense. Everything happens in the present, even though the present is sometimes past. Stylistically, it is fluid with descriptions so ...more
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Margaret Atwood puts to rest the belief that little girls are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice.” What they are capable of is nothing short of brutal.

We meet Elaine- she has come back to Toronto for an exhibition of her art. She is anxious about being back, as she has always felt that if she had stayed in Toronto, she would be dead. We go through two time periods- the present and to Elaine’s childhood and young adult years in Toronto. Her being in Toronto makes her memories resurface-
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)
Dannii Elle
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actual rating 4.5/5 stars.

When renowned and controversial painter, Elaine Risley, returns to her home-town of Toronto it sparks in her a confrontation of her buried past. Dark childhood secrets resurface and the Risley everyone believes they know is actually as fractured as the truth hidden inside her creations.

This was an interesting chronicle of one woman's life. I adored how the reader is introduced to Risley in her present, older self, before we are invited to return to her childhood and
Another magnificent read for me from one of my new favorite authors Margaret Atwood. She writes in the way I love, with beautiful sentences and paragraphs, filled with metaphors and similes and wonderful descriptions of the landscape and excellent character development, I really loved Elaine our protagonist as a child, I felt protective towards her when maybe she wasn't being protected enough...The adult Elaine due to events from childhood is a damaged/flawed character who looks back on her life ...more
Jul 27, 2015 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 ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2019
I could not put this book down! What a great writer Margaret Atwood is!

"Hatred would have been easier. With hatred, I would have known what to do. Hatred is clear, metallic, one-handed, unwavering; unlike love."

"I suppose I wanted to bring her back to life. I suppose I wanted her timeless, though there is no such thing on earth. These pictures of her like everything else are drenched in time."

"Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. It's like the tide
Sep 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
When I was considering whether to read this or not, what flashed through my head was, “Do you really want to read a book about bullying?” I knew this was the book’s central theme. I thought, “What can I learn from this?” I knew, even before picking up the book, how despicable such behavior is. I knew where I stood, so I wondered what more could be learned.

By reading this book one experiences on an emotional level the cruelty and the fear and anguish bullying inflicts on another. The experience
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.
Jul 15, 2015 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
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
Kimberly Dawn
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized.”

A painter, Elaine Risley returns to Toronto, the city of her childhood. She is there to attend a retrospective showing of her work.

Although she is now middle aged, the city is a reminder of the painful childhood memories she still carries with her in her adult life, memories she must now come to terms with.

The book alternates between childhood memories and scenes from her current middle age
I've been putting off reviewing this as I'm at a loss what to say about it. Even when I was listening to it I was thinking 'I'm just not sure how I feel about this book'. I was planning on giving it a 3 star considering the characters (white women who deal with 'feelings' and 'emotions' don't really excite me - familiarly breeds a little bit of contempt or at least boredom) but it was so well crafted and it had important themes that sort of snuck up on me so I ended up being forced to accept ...more
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A story of relentless and sincere beauty.
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Reading 1001: Cat's Eye - Atwood, Nov 2019 BOTM 14 22 Dec 06, 2019 10:53AM  
Reading 1001: Cat's Eye by Atwood 7 20 Dec 05, 2019 03:19PM  
Play Book Tag: Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood 3 27 Oct 28, 2018 09:21AM  
The Mookse and th...: 1989 Shortlist: Cat's Eye 7 43 Sep 03, 2018 01:30PM  
Play Book Tag: Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood - 5 stars 11 31 Jun 19, 2018 03:06PM  
Critical to feminism? 12 164 Mar 08, 2018 01:50PM  

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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,
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“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” 2474 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.” 2105 likes
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