Original title: The Cat's Table ISBN 0224093614 (ISBN13: 9780224093613) Edition language: English Genre : Murder mystery, crime drama, literary fiction, cultural Kindle Edition : 290 pages Other Formats : Hardcover; Mass Market Paperback; Kindle, Nook, Audio CD Publishing date: August 30th 2011 by McLelland (first published January 1st 2011) Literary awards: Hammett Prize Nominee (2011), Scotiabank Giller Prize Nominee (2011), Dayton Literary Peace Prize Nominee for Fiction (2012) Purchase from Amazon , Barnes@Noble
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'What had there been before such a ship in my life? A dugout canoe on a river journey? A launch in Trincomalee harbour? There were always fishing boats on our horizon. But I could never imagine the grandeur of this castle that was to cross the sea'.
In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner in Colombo bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the lowly 'cat's table' - as far from the Captain's table as can be - with a ragtag group of adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship crosses the Indian Ocean the boys tumble from one adventure to another,and at night they spy on a shackled prisoner - his crime and fate a mystery that will haunt them forever...
REVIEW: Michael was eleven years old that night when, green as he could be about the world , he climbed aboard the first and only ship of his life, the Oronsay, sailing for England from Colombo.
Unbeknownst to him, the twenty-one days at sea would become twenty-one years of schooling, molding him into the adult he would one day be, when he joined the cat's table, the least important place to eat on the ship.
The lessons he picked up from the adult company filled up several pages of his old school exercise books. He still had time to make those notes, amid the adventures in which he and his friends, Ramadhin and Cassius, engaged in on the ship. They witnessed an adult world filled with thieves, adulterers, gamblers, teachers, authority, natural healers, dreamers and schemers. Oh yes, and a shackled, dangerous prisoner. Each one of them becomes important in their lives through either their words or conduct. The ship had lots to offer for three young boys to keep them occupied. So many people, so many stories, so many intrigue. And then there was the ports of call...
Miss Perinetta Lasqueti was one of the guests around the Cat's Table. Their first impression of her manner was that of being like faded-wallpaper, but the more they found out about her, the more convinced they became that 'she was more like a box of small foxes at a country fair' . And with a good hand at shooting to prove it.
Mr. Mazappa - the boisterous, loud pianist would change their newly acquired perspective on old paintings with his approach to the angelic Madonnas in them, saying: "‘The trouble with all those Madonnas is that there is a child that needs to be fed and the mothers are putting forth breasts that look like panino-shaped bladders. No wonder the babies look like disgruntled adults." (p.213 - kindle edition)
Mr. Larry Daniels, the botanist, would teach them much more about his plants than they would ever need to know in their lifetimes.
Mr. Fonseka, the teacher, had a "serenity that came with the choice of the life he wanted to live. And this serenity and certainty I have seen only among those who have the armour of books close by."
I wanted to read this book for such a long time now. There was just something about it that told me it would roll me over and tie me down in its prose. It did. Some books just put themselves where it can be read because it is really that good. It is multifaceted. It is thought-provoking. It is excellent. It is one of those books you cannot walk away from easily. It has all the elements to promise that it will become a classic in time. I want to reread it. I just have to. Period.
ABOUT THE AUTHORMichael Ondaatjie was born to a Burgher family of Dutch-Tamil-Sinhalese-Portuguese origin. He moved to England with his mother in 1954. After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. Ondaatje studied for a time at Bishops College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto and received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and began teaching at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. In 1970 he settled in Toronto. From 1971 to 1988 he taught English Literature at York University and Glendon College in Toronto.