Book a Week: “Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Atwood

So I’ve finally gotten off of my “creepy psychopathic people in suburban settings” (exhibit 1 and 2 found here) genre kick and decided to pick up “Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Atwood. I had previously read a couple of her novels before, including her famous dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” and loved them! Everything I had read of hers before was more of a sci-fi, dystopian sort so I decided to try something a bit different. “Cat’s Eye” is in the first person point of view and covers the life and childhood of Elaine Risley, an older and more eccentric artist.

What I loved most about “Cat’s Eye” is that it is a coming-of-age novel set in reverse. The narrator is already older and already self-admittedly past her prime. Because of this, the storytelling is set in a sort of melancholy by nostalgic tone. It also takes a look at growing up from the wiser, more knowledgeable point of view of someone who has lived through it all. When I was a lot younger, I really loved reading novels about young girls growing up. it made me feel more normal during a time that everything seemed so off-kilter, and I felt closer to the characters as a result. As someone who is almost no longer a teenager, I really appreciated the narrator’s wiser and more knowing outlook. Now that I myself have more or less “grown up” (though we never stop, in my opinion!), I really appreciated the more realistic outlook on things. Not everything was idyllic and perfect as a child for Elaine, and she understood her own demons and personal issues. This is the type of self awareness that you won’t really get from a younger perspective.

I also thought the plot of “Cat’s Eye” was well paced. Jumping from present to past and back again, it spans from Elaine’s memories as a small child to her years as a young woman. I never once felt bored or like a plot point was being dragged on for far too long, which I thought was impressive given the nature of the topic.

Reading “Cat’s Eye” also made me feel empowered as someone who was growing up, and as a woman. Elaine’s narrative voice was so relatable to me. It was strong at times, while self deprecating at others. It held obvious grudges against long-gone childhood friends but also mused on present events. Margaret Atwood somehow got into the heart of everything conflicting thought I had ever had and personified them into her character of Elaine Risley. (Dramatic? Yes. Accurate? Also yes.) Her novel made me smile at Elaine’s silly crushes, and made my heart break with empathy when she felt neglected. I appreciated everything I myself had gone through, because I had seen it with a similar lens through Elaine. I can definitely see this being a book I will return to time and time again just to get something new out of it every time.

After I finished the book, I just kind of sat there. Usually, I’m not too affected by what I read until I give myself appropriate time to ponder it. However, I was left with such a feeling of companionship with a character that never existed. It wasn’t until a little bit later that I realized it’s because Atwood made it so easy to empathize with Elaine Risley. When I read a bit about the book later (very meta) I found it’s speculated that Atwood crafted the character of Elaine Risley after herself. To me, this makes sense. It’s been a while since I’ve read such an in-depth character.

Emotional book review aside, if you’re looking for a slower-paced, more introspective reading experience, this is the book for you. Even if you feel you have nothing in common with the character, I would urge you to pick up another one of Atwood’s novel for the poetic writing alone. I hesitate to give any book a perfect score, so:

Book Rating: 9.5/10

PCC: T.M. Craan, Design; Jamie Bennett, Illustration

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