05 May 2008

How do you feel when you finish a marathon?

Finally...FINALLY...I finished Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood.

In order to review this honestly, I didn't read any other review of it. That can be scary. For what if I missed the main, obvious premise of the book and I look like an idiot? I'm trying to be brave here and hopefully give a one-of-the-normal-folk type of reviews as opposed to a literary one.

How do I describe this book? Hmmmm...let's see...I guess there are two ways.
  1. If it didn't satisfy two reading challenges: My Year of Reading Dangerously and Orbis Terrarum, I wouldn't have finished it. It took until page 126 for me to even care about the main character and finally by page 328 (of 446 total) I found that I was intrigued and wanted to know how it would end.
  2. Difficult to finish, but once it is over, you want to have a discussion with others who have read it so you can figure out the many things that you don't quite get. Great, great book for a book club to discuss.
Elaine, is our main character. The story hops back and forth between the present and her past, working from her young childhood in the '40's, until the two merge in the "now" of the '80's. The problem is that she is never happy. Never. Nothing makes her happy. Her childhood girlfriends terrorized her and from that point on...nothing but this gray film on life. She goes through the motions but every thought is cynical and every smile suspected.

The ringleader of these "friends" and subtle-tactic bully, Cordelia, oddly enough ends up being Elaine's best friend later on. It is her relationship with Cordelia, specifically, and her childhood home, Toronto, in general, that torments Elaine onward through adulthood.

I really enjoyed Atwood's style of writing. The hopscotch forward/backward in time method that she used was a perfect medium for telling this story since Elaine's present is so entwined with her past. A bit confusing at times, but a brilliant move.

Atwood has an amazing way of describing things without being verbose. Reading a lot of classics, I'm always skimming and skipping whole paragraphs of descriptions. Not so with this book. The things she describes are not only important to the story, but are done in such a way as to keep my interest. One of my favorite lines from this book is conveyed in just this sparse way.
"This landscape is empty now, a place for Sunday runners. Or not empty: filled with whatever it is by itself, when I'm not looking."

I find myself wanting to dissect this novel with someone else. I want to bounce ideas of what I think the different symbols mean off of another. In that sense, I feel that this book was extraordinary. It evokes discussion and I think that is one of the necessary components of a good book.

Just be aware: this book is gray. By that I mean that when I think of how I feel when I read it, I could only envision the characters in black and white. Different items were in color but the people are all gray. My feelings were gray. I felt that Elaine was walking around dusted in gray.

For what it's worth...the above is what I came out of Cat's Eye with. It was difficult to get through, but in the end I'm glad I did. Not sure if I would attempt it again, though. Sort of like finishing a marathon.

PS - Yes, you do understand the cover picture by the end of the book.

PPS - Anyone who has read this before: When Elaine is arguing with her then-husband Jon, he says,"Trisha, Monica is just a friend." Is this a typo or was she going by Trisha before this? See, my name is Tricia and I'm pretty sure I would have seen another one previous. Please relieve my anxious confusion...EDIT: I feel pretty silly now. After talking it over with my husband, I realized that Jon was answering her question. She asked if he was going to see Monica. His response was misinterpreted by me. I thought he was calling Elaine Trisha like some sort of nickname and then letting her know she was being paranoid because Monica was just a friend. But in actuality he is answering her question that he is going to see Trisha and that she got the "other woman" wrong because Monica is just a friend. Funny how you can read the printed word in different ways isn't it?


MamaP said...

HEy! I've read two Atwood books and enjoyed her, but yes she is very gray and modern. Sometimes a downer and definitely a thought provoker. I haven't read this one but have been curious. Thanks for the review.

tricia said...

after reading this, i'm nervous to try another. definitely not up to it right now. i'll probably try the hand maiden (is that right?) next, but not for awhile.

bethany said...

GREAT work getting through that one!! Yes, I have heard the same thing about her over and over. I started The Handmaid's Tale but HATED it....someday maybe...but the idea of being used and perpetually preggo was not my cup of tea! haha!

Anyway, great work completing an ORBIS TERRARUM travel book!! So cool girl!

tricia said...

thanks betharoo!

kristen said...

Isn't it funny that as readers, we're always afraid that we "aren't getting it"? I do that as well...but really, everyone gets something different out of books. I think it is some hangup from some damaging high school English class.

I found you through dangerously reading challenge. Loved the review! I loved this book but I love reading different perspectives!

tricia said...

kristen-thanks for stopping by! i agree with your "getting it" statement. although i do try to figure out what the author's intent is (if there is any). i like to read reviews that are opposite of mine as well. it is so wierd how one person can love something and another person hate it, isn't it?