Sunday, December 11, 2011
The Cat's Table; Michael Ondaatje
Title: The Cat's Table
Author: Michael Ondaatje
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Random House Audio
Date Completed: 12/6/2011
The Cat's Table led me on an enjoyable voyage from Columbo (Sri Lanka) to England, aboard the Oronsay. The story unfolds as a man thinks back on a 21-day voyage he took as a young boy. A voyage that shaped his life. Since the author himself took a similar voyage when he was a young boy, this story is believed to be in part somewhat autobiographical.
In this story, Michael, is an 11-year old boy aboard the ship who is traveling to see his mother in England; he hasn't seen her in a number of years. He and several other colorful, underprivileged characters are delegated to a portion of the ship referred to as "The Cat's Table", at mealtime. The area is located as far away from the "captain's table" as possible. Michael is also referred to as Mynah, because he likes to go around and spread gossip about what he learns from other travelers aboard the ship. He is not to be pitied, for he and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin, go from one exciting adventure to another. With such antics as sneaking to the first-class deck to swim in the pool and to eat better food, the boys are always up to something.
The most impressive thing about this story for me was that while I thought I might feel sorry for these boys, I did not. What happens to them on the journey, shapes their future lives, exposing them to individuals and experiences which teach them a lot about life and human nature. Literature, jazz, performers, a prisoner in chains, and the alluring power of women are just some of the experiences that occupied their time and opened up their minds. It was interesting to see that even though the boys go their separate ways, what they experienced together, played a part in the men that they become.
While the beginning of the story seemed somewhat choppy and disjointed, a patient reader, or listener in my case, will be rewarded with beautiful writing, at times poetic, fully developed characters and a story that comes together in the end. There were several beautiful passage which I can no longer recall since I was listening to the audiobook, which was read by the author who did a terrific job. The scenes were easy to visualize and a good listening experience overall.