The Cat's Table

  • by Michael Ondaatje
  • Narrated by Michael Ondaatje
  • 7 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the “cat’s table” - as far from the Captain’s Table as can be - with a ragtag group of “insignificant” adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another, bursting all over the place like freed mercury. But there are other diversions as well: one man talks with them about jazz and women, another opens the door to the world of literature. The narrator’s elusive, beautiful cousin Emily becomes his confidante, allowing him to see himself “with a distant eye” for the first time, and to feel the first stirring of desire. Another Cat’s Table denizen, the shadowy Miss Lasqueti, is perhaps more than what she seems. And very late every night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner, his crime and his fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.
As the narrative moves between the decks and holds of the ship and the boy’s adult years, it tells a spellbinding story - by turns poignant and electrifying - about the magical, often forbidden, discoveries of childhood and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.
From the Hardcover edition.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Superb - But Not For All Readers or All Situations

This audiobook is very different from most in how it is presented. Picture sitting in the library room of an old, grand manor at night, curled up on a sofa by a crackling fire, while a distinguished man in an armchair quietly reads to you from some leather-bound volume in his lap. That is the feel and quality of this recording, with both the benefits and drawbacks that come with it.

The soft, rich voice of the author is both lyrical and melodious - and that remains a constant of the production. His voice lulls you into a nearly hypnotic state where you can end up just listening to the sound of him speaking, and miss what is actually being SAID. What this meant for me was that the book took more concentration than I normally need, because there were no audio cues of any event taking place. Accounts of a quiet afternoon tea are read with the exact same tone and cadence as the description of a dramatic, terrifying storm at sea, or the occurrence of an attempted murder. Blink, and you'll miss it.

To me, the story was beautiful and honest. It took far more time than usual to learn about and care for the cast of characters (and through this to appreciate the story in it's entirety); but in real life, we don't really know someone's full value when we meet them. People are nuanced, complicated, and cautious; and it takes time, care, and effort to fully understand and appreciate them. We reveal ourselves slowly. I thought this story was a great reminder of this.

In the end, whether you enjoy this book may possibly depend on what your expectations are, and what situation you will be listening to it in. I can't imagine having gotten as much from it, or enjoying it nearly so much if I was listening in the car over a handful of days, as I sometimes do; but listening to it at home, quietly, over the course of 24 hours was a rare and special treat that felt both magical and intimate.

This story will stay with me, and I'm glad to know it.
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- Amanda "I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it."

No raving master piece review here

I've read many reviews of The Cat's Table and they are almost all extremely enthusiastic appraisals of the complex, enigmatic, eloquent, elegant, evocative, ethereal and literary word-craftsmanship of Michael Ondaatje's new novel. Well, I have to say that it is definitely well crafted but the author seems to me the wrong choice to narrate his own creation. The book had the potential to be a exciting journey of life but ended up being a complete drag to get through. At many times it feels like the author tried to be a word-magician instead of having a book that immerses you in its story line. I have no doubt that it is very different if you read it yourself, but as an audio book it was a little boring and non engaging.
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- Tamara

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-04-2011
  • Publisher: Random House Audio