Monday, September 30, 2013

Guest Review: The Cat's Table - Michael Ondatjee

Review: The Cat's Table - Michael Ondaatje - August 2011

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 to ports of call...

Miss Perinetta Lasqueti was one of the guests around the Cat's Table who would become one of the biggest influences in their lives. 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'. She would become one of the biggest surprises on their life's journey.

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. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered its popularity on Goodreads. 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.


1 comment:

  1. This story is delightful - the characters - the language- the capturing of youth.
    When I was done I started to read it again to see the clues I might have missed and to have the experiences again: to just listen to Mr Mazapah and got my binoculars out to take another look at what happened on the deck that one night.
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