Friday, August 11, 2017

Fiction Friday (55)

I don't want to jinx myself, but I've been closing the last page of a book more often these days, though that may end now that I've begun Finnegan's Wake. But in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the progress I'm making in my goal to read more books. This week I finished reading a book I picked up last month. I've read some Margaret Atwood in the past and really liked her style, but this book was something else. Easily one of the best books I've ever read, this is one of those stories that will shape my thoughts on writing for years to come. Enjoy. 

Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
(Anchor, 1988)

"Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. If you can bend space you can bend time also, and if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once."  opening lines

There comes a point in our lives, usually around the age of eight or nine, when our families cease to be the center of how we define ourselves. The realm of friendship moves in to shape our ideas of self-worth and deficiencies. Though there are many novels that examine this coming of age theme, few of them look at the scars left by these friendships. In Cat's Eye, Maragret Atwood takes a brutally honest and poetic look at how these relationships can be both damaging and dangerous.

Returning to her hometown of Toronto after her own kids have grown, Elaine Risley begins to revisit the events of her youth that haunt her. She describes in detail the punishingly cruel friendships she had as a girl, the kind that are all too common and all too often ignored. The girls "think that they are friends" and from the perspective of childhood, they are. It is only in retrospect that Elaine sees the cruelty inflicted upon her and the cruelty she later inflicts on those who are supposed to be friends. But it is also these relationships that ultimately made her the celebrated artist she's become.

As much as this book is about the world of female friendship, it also about the dying of the past and the way society continues to rebuild itself, told through the metaphor of the city that hardly resembles the one that raised Elaine. It also about the way we drift in and out of relationships, moving farther and farther from ourselves as we become who we are in the present. Outstanding in every way, this is one of the best books I've ever read!

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