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Cat's Eye (1988)

by Margaret Atwood

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,100162878 (3.94)1 / 607
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 identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman--but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories.… (more)
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English (154)  Dutch (3)  Swedish (2)  German (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (161)
Showing 1-5 of 154 (next | show all)
I don’t really write reviews but this book made me feel something. A variety of emotions. As though I had experienced all that Elaine experienced. Atwood is a master of her craft. ( )
  strunz94 | Mar 29, 2024 |
I was pleased to discover this book at a book fair last year as it is one of Atwood's earlier novels. It has the ring of truth about it and I soon found that there is a common theme with the author's own life, especially the early years.
The book moves between two timelines. In the 1980's, Elaine Risley is returning to Toronto for the opening of her art exhibition. Now about 50, she is confronted with the memories of her childhood lived in this city. Her first 10 years were very transient as her father an entomologist spent much time in the wilderness researching and collecting samples for his studies. His family went with him, his wife, son and daughter. This reflects the author's own childhood. The mother home schooled the children and it wasn't until her father accepted a teaching post, at the university, that they lived in a house which was still in the process of being completed and attended school. The story looks at her overtures to be accepted by a group of girls but the reader soon realises, as does Elaine, that she is being manipulated and bullied. The story follows her development until she decides to become a painter. Her art reflects, in a surrealist style, several of her early relationships and like much in the 60's and 70's also has a growing feminist theme. I found myself wanting to see these pieces of art even though they would be imaginary.
I found in this book, a real connection, like other books of her early writing years. That sense when you return to the place you grew up after a long absence and everything has changed and it now only exists in your own memories. A very thought provoking book in so many ways. ( )
1 vote HelenBaker | Feb 19, 2024 |
This is one of the most depressing books ever. The writing is so good that your heart utterly breaks for the little girl being bullied by her friends and turning into a nervous wreck. When I say depressing, I mean I wanted to curl up in my room and give up altogether, I was mean to my spouse and had stopped doing homework or housecleaning. I could not take it. ( )
  mslibrarynerd | Jan 13, 2024 |
This was a beautiful meditation on identity and memory, as well as a very honest portrait of childhood. Atwood's writing always astonishes.

I thought the engrossing opening and heart-wrenching middle were stronger than the ending, maybe because I wasn't totally satisfied how Cordelia starts as this symbol of tormented girlhood but is then unveiled as a very real person with (somewhat boring) motivations. The narrative arc seems to be "formative childhood experiences can be catastrophic, but then we get over them" - which is true, but maybe not very interesting. ( )
  raschneid | Dec 19, 2023 |
Atwood is clever in describing typical friendships between girls with the simple line, "we think we are all friends". Young Elaine Risley has all the angst of a young girl growing up in the bullseye of bullying; something that haunts the adult Elaine when she returns back to her childhood city of Toronto to put on an art show. Elaine confronts the painful memories of the various traumas of her childhood with every passing landmark. Most prominent from her childhood are three girls who at turns tormented and loved Elaine with equal parts malice and warmth. As with all young friendships, Elaine was an easy target. She was desperate to please; bullied into thinking she was never good enough for the friendships she begged to have. One of the saddest moments for me was when Elaine contemplated suicide, not because she wanted to end her life, but because she knew how much her death would please an enemy.
As a teenager, Elaine discovered she had a sharp tongue which becomes her best defense and her most valuable weapon. Her enemies fall away not because they leave her, but because she lets them go.
As an adult, Elaine learns that the monsters of our youth can shrink to the harmless size of dust balls under the bed; their teeth and claws can dull upon adult scrutiny. But not all of them go away, especially when you do not want them to. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Nov 30, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 154 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (50 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Atwood, Margaretprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blaauw, Gerrit deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Farr, KimberlyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Franke, CharlotteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malcolm, CarolDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
When the Tukanas cut off her head, the old woman collected her own blood in her hands and blew it towards the sun. "My soul enters you, too!" she shouted. Since then anyone who kills receives in his body, without wanting or knowing it, the soul of his victim.
—Eduardo Galeano
Memory of Fire: Genesis
Why do we remember the past, and not the future?
—Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time
Dedication
This book is for S.
First words
Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space.
Quotations
An eye for an eye only leads to more blindness.
Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.
Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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 identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman--but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories.

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Book description
Controversial painter Elaine Risley vividly reflects on her childhood and teenage years. Her strongest memories are of Cordelia, who was the leader of a trio of girls who were both very cruel and very kind to young Elaine, in ways that tint Elaine's perceptions of relationships and her world—not to mention her art—into the character's middle years. The novel unfolds in Canada of the mid-20th century, from World War II to the late 1980s, and includes a look at many of the cultural elements of that time period, including feminism and various modern art movements.
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Average: (3.94)
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