What did I say when I was working my way through the Atwood canon? Cat’s Eye was one of the other few Atwoods I hadn’t read in my local library, until I realized that book club and my bookshelf books were calling. I’ll probably get to more Atwood in 2018 once I’ve finished reading the books I actually own. I have to confess, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Cat’s Eye as much as I absolutely did, but what else are you going to do when Margaret Atwood throws you into a deep and time-traveling story?
Cat’s Eye moves in two dimensions: the present moment where controversial artist Elaine Risley is doing a show in Toronto when she is past middle age and celebrated for her career; and the interior reflection on the trajectory of her life, in which many incidents are unpacked and explored. This simple concept belies a rich and provoking Kunstlerroman (because I can be an asshole about my literary terminology when it is absolutely relevant, right? Right.), also known as the coming of age of the artist. We see the roots of Risley’s art and the psychological components that lead her into her various relationships, particularly her disturbing childhood friendships with three other girls. Most haunting is Cordelia, whose presence pervades her adulthood.
The buildup for this novel is slow, but it is immersive and engrossing. I found myself really interested in Elaine’s childhood, girlhood, adolescence, and adulthood. I wondered how her art was rooted in these childhood stories (but we do find these answers out), and I was interested to see how her interior life was manifested in her public persona. This is an intriguing and (in my opinion) underrated Atwood, especially if you are interested in art and culture.
Cross-posted to my blog.