Cat's Eye

Cat's Eye

by Margaret Atwood

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Overview

Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale

From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Blind Assassin comes a breathtaking novel about a woman grappling with the tangled knot of her life. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, Cat’s Eye is the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman—but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385491020
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/1998
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 64,749
Product dimensions: 5.16(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.96(d)
Lexile: 850L (what's this?)

About the Author

Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and her most recent, MaddAddam. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson. 

www.margaretatwood.ca

Hometown:

Toronto, Ontario

Date of Birth:

November 18, 1939

Place of Birth:

Ottawa, Ontario

Education:

B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967

Read an Excerpt

1

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.

It was my brother Stephen who told me that, when he wore his raveling maroon sweater to study in and spent a lot of time standing on his head so that the blood would run down into his brain and nourish it. I didn’t understand what he meant, but maybe he didn’t explain it very well. He was already moving away from the imprecision of words.

But I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another. You don’t look back along time but down through it, like water. Sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing. Nothing goes away.

 

2

“Stephen says time is not a line,” I say. Cordelia rolls her eyes, as I knew she would.

“So?” she says. This answer pleases both of us. It puts the nature of time in its place, and also Stephen, who calls us “the teenagers,” as if he himself is not one. Cordelia and I are riding on the streetcar, going downtown, as we do on winter Saturdays. The streetcar is muggy with twice-breathed air and the smell of wool. Cordelia sits with nonchalance, nudging me with her elbow now and then, staring blankly at the other people with her gray-green eyes, opaque and glinting as metal. She can outstare anyone, and I am almost as good. We’re impervious, we scintillate, we are thirteen.

We wear long wool coats with tie belts, the collars turned up to look like those of movie stars, and rubber boots with the tops folded down and men’s work socks inside. In our pockets are stuffed the kerchiefs our mothers make us wear but that we take off as soon as we’re out of their sight. We scorn head coverings. Our mouths are tough, crayon-red, shiny as nails. We think we are friends.

On the streetcars there are always old ladies, or we think of them as old. They’re of various kinds. Some are respectably dressed, in tailored Harris tweed coats and matching gloves and tidy no-nonsense hats with small brisk feathers jauntily at one side. Others are poorer and foreign-looking and have dark shawls wound over their heads and around their shoulders. Others are bulgy, dumpy, with clamped self-righteous mouths, their arms festooned with shopping bags; these we associate with sales, with bargain basements. Cordelia can tell cheap cloth at a glance. “Gabardine,” she says. “Ticky-tack.”

Then there are the ones who have not resigned themselves, who still try for an effect of glamour. There aren’t many of these, but they stand out. They wear scarlet outfits or purple ones, and dangly earrings, and hats that look like stage props. Their slips show at the bottoms of their skirts, slips of unusual, suggestive colors. Anything other than white is suggestive. They have hair dyed straw-blond or baby-blue, or, even more startling against their papery skins, a lusterless old-fur-coat black. Their lipstick mouths are too big around their mouths, their rouge blotchy, their eyes drawn screw-jiggy around their real eyes. These are the ones most likely to talk to themselves. There’s one who says “mutton, mutton,” over and over again like a song, another who pokes at our legs with her umbrella and says “bare naked.”

 

This is the kind we like best. They have a certain gaiety to them, a power of invention, they don’t care what people think. They have escaped, though what it is they’ve escaped from isn’t clear to us. We think that their bizarre costumes, their verbal tics, are chosen, and that when the time comes we also will be free to choose.

“That’s what I’m going to be like,” says Cordelia. “Only I’m going to have a yappy Pekinese, and chase kids off my lawn. I’m going to have a shepherd’s crook.”

“I’m going to have a pet iguana,” I say, “and wear nothing but cerise.” It’s a word I have recently learned.

***

Now I think, what if they just couldn’t see what they looked like? Maybe it was as simple as that: eye problems. I’m having that trouble myself now: too close to the mirror and I’m a blur, too far back and I can’t see the details. Who knows what faces I’m making, what kind of modern art I’m drawing onto myself? Even when I’ve got the distance adjusted, I vary. I am transitional; some days I look like a worn-out thirty-five, others like a sprightly fifty. So much depends on the light, and the way you squint.

I eat in pink restaurants, which are better for the skin. Yellow ones turn you yellow. I actually spend time thinking about this. Vanity is becoming a nuisance; I can see why women give it up, eventually. But I’m not ready for that yet.

Lately I’ve caught myself humming out loud, or walking along the street with my mouth slightly open, drooling a little. Only a little; but it may be the thin edge of the wedge, the crack in the wall that will open, later, onto what? What vistas of shining eccentricity, or madness?

There is no one I would ever tell this to, except Cordelia. But which Cordelia? The one I have conjured up, the one with the rolltop boots and the turned-up collar, or the one before, or the one after? There is never only one, of anyone.

 

If I were to meet Cordelia again, what would I tell her about myself? The truth, or whatever would make me look good?

Probably the latter. I still have that need.

I haven’t seen her for a long time. I wasn’t expecting to see her. But now that I’m back here I can hardly walk down a street without a glimpse of her, turning a comer, entering a door. It goes without saying that these fragments of her-a shoulder, beige, camel’s-hair, the side of a face, the back of a leg-belong to women who, seen whole, are not Cordelia.

I have no idea what she would look like now. Is she fat, have her breasts sagged, does she have little gray hairs at the comers of her mouth? Unlikely: she would pull them out. Does she wear glasses with fashionable frames, has she had her lids lifted, does she streak or tint? All of these things are possible: we’ve both reached that borderline age, that buffer zone in which it can still be believed such tricks will work if you avoid bright sunlight.

I think of Cordelia examining the growing pouches under her eyes, the skin, up close, loosened and crinkled like elbows. She sighs, pats in cream, which is the right kind. Cordelia would know the right kind. She takes stock of her hands, which are shrinking a little, warping a little, as mine are. Gnarling has set in, the withering of the mouth; the outlines of dewlaps are beginning to be visible, down toward the chin, in the dark glass of subway windows. Nobody else notices these things yet, unless they look closely; but Cordelia and I are in the habit of looking closely.

She drops the bath towel, which is green, a muted sea-green to match her eyes, looks over her shoulder, sees in the mirror the dog’s-neck folds of skin above the waist, the buttocks drooping like wattles, and, turning, the dried fern of hair. I think of her in a sweatsuit, sea-green as well, working out in some gym or other, sweating like a pig. I know what she would say about this, about all of this. How we giggled, with repugnance and delight, when we found the wax her older sisters used on their legs, congealed in a little pot, stuck full-of bristles. The grotesqueries of the body were always of interest to her.

I think of encountering her without warning. Perhaps in a worn coat and a knitted hat like a tea cosy, sitting on a curb, with two plastic bags filled with her only possessions, muttering to herself. Cordelia! Don’t you recognize me? I say. And she does, but pretends not to. She gets up and shambles away on swollen-feet, old socks poking through the holes in her rubber boots, glancing back over her shoulder.

There’s some satisfaction in that, more in worse things. I watch from a window, or a balcony so I can see better, as some man chases Cordelia along the sidewalk below me, catches up with her, punches her in the ribs—I can’t handle the face—throws her down. But I can’t go any farther.

Better to switch to an oxygen tent. Cordelia is unconscious. I have been summoned, too late, to her hospital bedside. There are flowers, sickly smelling, wilting in a vase, tubes going into her arms and nose, the sound of terminal breathing. I hold her hand. Her face is puffy, white, like an unbaked biscuit, with yellowish circles under the closed eyes. Her eyelids don’t flicker but there’s a faint twitching of her fingers, or do I imagine it? I sit there wondering whether to pull the tubes out of her arms, the plug out of the wall. No brain activity, the doctors say. Am I crying? And who would have summoned me?

Even better: an iron lung. I’ve never seen an iron lung, but the newspapers had pictures of children in iron lungs, back when people still got polio. These pictures-the iron lung a cylinder, a gigantic sausageroll of metal, with a head sticking out one end of it, always a girl’s head, the hair flowing across the pillow, the eyes large, nocturnal-fascinated me, more than stories about children who went out on thin ice and fell through and were drowned, or children who played on the railroad tracks and had their arms and legs cut off by trains. You could get polio without knowing how or where, end up in an iron lung without knowing why. Something you breathed in or ate, or picked up from the dirty money other people had touched. You never knew.

The iron lungs were used to frighten us, and as reasons why we couldn’t do things we wanted to. No public swimming pools, no crowds in summer. Do you want to spend the rest of your life in an iron lung? they would say. A stupid question; though for me such a life, with its inertia and pity, had its secret attractions.

Cordelia in an iron lung, then, being breathed, as an aceordian is played. A mechanical wheezing sound comes from around her. She is fully conscious, but unable to move or speak. I come into the room, moving, speaking. Our eyes meet.

Reading Group Guide

1. What does Margaret Atwood's novel Cat's Eye say about the nature of childhood and the development of adolescent friendships? Is there a gender influenced difference in cruelty between boys as opposed to cruelty as expressed by girls? At what point does adolescent meanness become pathological?

2. In the opening line of the novel, the narrator, artist Elaine Risley, who returns to the city of her birth for a retrospective of her painting, observes: "Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space . . . if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once." How do you interpret this statement? Why does Elaine return to Toronto and what does she hope to accomplish? Was the trip necessary? If so, why? What role does this return play in the structure of the novel?

3. Elaine is haunted by Cordelia, her "best friend" and the tormentor of her childhood. All predators must have a motive. What benefit did Cordelia receive out of tormenting Elaine? What weakness in Elaine made her particularly vulnerable to Cordelia? Why did she continue to play such importance in Elaine's adult life?

4. Discuss the impact of the type of parenting received by Elaine, Cordelia, and their third friend, Grace. At one point Elaine's mother tells her that she does not have to be with the girls that are tormenting her. Is her mother in any way responsible for what happened to Elaine? What role do you feel parents should play in helping resolve childhood conflicts or in protecting their children?

5. Early in the novel, Elaine is warned by her first new friend, Carol, not to go down into the ravine: "There might be men there." Discuss the significance of this warning, taking into account the later incident between the girls at the ravine. What does this say about our ability to apprehend danger? In what other Atwood novels does she explore the nature of evil and its relationship to gender?

6. Why do you think Elaine became an artist? What is the significance that she did so? Do artists use life experiences in ways nonartists do not?

7. Many of Atwood's themes are first explored in her poetry. We have included two poems from The Circle Game, her award-winning first volume of poetry, published in 1966. How are some of the themes of these poems later developed in Cat's Eye? Atwood is one of the few writers who is successful as both a poet and a novelist. Can you think of others?

8. A review of Cat's Eye by Judith Thurman suggests that a connection exists between sex and childhood games. Discuss this, as well as the significance of the book's title.

Foreword

1. What does Margaret Atwood's novel Cat's Eye say about the nature of childhood and the development of adolescent friendship? Is there a gender-influenced difference in cruelty between boys as opposed to that expressed between girls? At what point does adolescent meanness become pathological?

2. In the opening line of the novel, the narrator, artist Elaine Risley, who returns to the city of her birth for a retrospective of her painting, observes: "Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space . . . if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once." How do you interpret this statement? Why does Elaine return to Toronto and what does she hope to accomplish there? Was the trip necessary? If so, why? What role does this return play in the structure of the novel?

3. Elaine is haunted by Cordelia, her "best friend" and childhood tormentor. All predators must have a motive. How did Cordelia benefit from tormenting Elaine? What weakness in Elaine made her particularly vulnerable to Cordelia? Why does Cordelia continue to play such importance in Elaine's adult life?

4. Discuss the impact of the type of parenting received by Elaine, Cordelia, and their third friend, Grace. At one point Elaine's mother tells her that she does not have to be with the girls that are tormenting her. Is her mother in any way responsible for what happened to Elaine? What role do you feel parents should play in helping resolve childhood conflicts or in protecting their children?

5. Early in the novel, Elaine is warned by her first new friend, Carol, not to go down into theravine: "There might be men there." Discuss the importance of this warning, taking into account the later incident between the girls at the ravine. What does this say about our ability to apprehend danger? In which of her other novels does Atwood explore the nature of evil and its relationship to gender?

6. Why do you think Elaine became an artist? What is the significance of that choice? Do artists use life experiences in ways people do not?

7. In her review of Cat's Eye, Judith Thurman suggests that a connection exists between sex and childhood games. Discuss this, as well as the significance of the book's title.

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Cat's Eye 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i thought that cat's eye was a marvellous book. it perfectly portrays the truth about young girls and the subtlety of their power games. I also thought this book had deep psychological undertones and if you dont concentrate you wont get the whole picture. Atwood has no trouble in engaging the reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great blend of science, art and chatacters to care for as the reflection occur I am grateful to be reading this at fifty or much would be blurred She writes paintings you can see and smell that linger on tje page Thank you for an inspiring that has given rise to forgive
Guest More than 1 year ago
Never before has the pain and laughter of childhood been illustrated with such unique and yet accurate detail, at least for this reader. Atwood¿s writing is impeccable as she weaves a past-and-present story with fluidity and style, and ingeniously blends dark humor into serious themes. The novel is both poignant and bitingly funny, thanks to Atwood¿s insight, wit, and her ability to create characters who are hauntingly alive. An outstanding reflection on the consequences of human behavior.
RebeccaScaglione More than 1 year ago
"Cat's Eye" by Margaret Atwood is about Elaine Risley who is an aging artist, and, similar to "A Prayer for Owen Meany," takes place when she is older and describes her childhood and experiences with a small group of girls, mainly focusing on the "friend" Cordelia. Elaine grew up in a less than conventional way, with a father who studied bugs and would have the family on the road often. Elaine finally was able to make friends (besides with her older brother, Stephen) when she was eight years old and moved to Toronto. The group of girls she became friends with, led by Cordelia, began to bully Elaine. Elaine was a pushover but did eventually gain some guts. I'll leave it at that since I don't want to give too much away. Another similarity to "A Prayer for Owen Meany" occurs when Elaine experiences a near-death experience and is rescued by, who she perceives is the Virgin Mary. In general, "Cat's Eye" stays farther away from religious topics than "A Prayer for Owen Meany." As Elaine grows up, she becomes a stronger individual and we learn about her love life, her children, and her moderately successful career as a painter. This could probably be a mini spoiler alert, so don't finish this paragraph if you want to read the book yourself! I really did enjoy following Elaine's journey through her life, and with her relationships with her family, boyfriend, husband, and on to being a painter. However, I don't really understand the ending. Maybe I'm missing something, but to me, it was a well-written, interesting story about Elaine's trip to Toronto, while in the midst of this Toronto trip, she explains about her childhood. The book begins with her trip to Toronto and ends with her plane ride home. Usually I would not recommend a book where I didn't like the ending, or where I thought the ending was lackluster. But I honestly did enjoy the book, just was unsatisfied with the ending.
LillyParksONBooks More than 1 year ago
Another great story from Margaret
Guest More than 1 year ago
Notice the simularities between this novel and 'The Bell Jar' Sylvia Plath. Also references to King Lear (Cordelia, Perdie, Mirrie) and Macbeth. Much sybolism relating to twins, lenses, mirors and eyes. Mrs Smeath, Grace, her sisters, Aunt Mildred and Mrs Lumley all wear glasses..are they short sighted?? Throughly enjoyable, although i found the paintings a little confusing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cat¿s Eye: girl on the run This novel reminded me of Girl Interrupted. Elaine, the protagonist, could be Susanna, and her school age ¿friend,¿ Cordelia¿Lisa. Elaine is a fiftyish female (don¿t call me an artist) painter: twice married, mother of two, with a very rich interior life that drives her to the brink of insanity. Susanna, in Susanna Kaysen¿s memoir, was diagnosed as having a borderline personality, and Lisa as having an anti-social personality. The labels fit Atwood¿s characters. The heroine says she was a happy girl until she moved to Toronto at the age of nine, where she attaches herself to the very charismatic Cordelia, who subsequently buries alive her neurotic ¿friend.¿ When Cordelia abandons Elaine in a frozen creek, leaving her for dead¿Elaine breaks the spell, and moves towards independence. She continues this quest for freedom throughout her life¿rejecting God, and her father¿s script for her (that of a scientist) for that of The Artist (painter). What about Mother? She rejects that role, too, of complicit housewife. Elaine, throughout, struggles for freedom and identity, but lands in a world of alienation and confusion, fertile ground for an artist. Predictably, she is seduced by her ¿Life Drawing¿ professor, but throws him off, only to attach herself to a wild, polygamous, peer artist who impregnates her. Unable to communicate other than through her painting, Elaine listens to an ethereal voice and attempts to kill herself, cutting her wrists with her husband¿s Exacto knife. By chance (?), Elaine catches a break when her socially egregious paintings elicit outrage from the community, thus ¿arriving¿ as an artist. This allows her to ditch her eccentric (now) husband and flee to Vancouver to start over. Having applied the ubiquitous geographic cure to no avail, Elaine tries the talking cure¿but she can¿t talk about, or remember, her childhood, which the shrink thinks holds the key. Throughout this disjointed journey, Atwood treats us to the fascinating dream world, adventures and musings of Elaine, who it seems, suffers from identity confusion and concludes that those who care¿lose¿so it is far better to remain unaffiliated. I find interesting Atwood¿s suggestion that perhaps it¿s the names people are given that determines their fate. Elaine wonders if Cordelia had had a different name, she might have fared better. In a later novel, Atwood repeats this premise, having her female characters intentionally change their names to better suit who they think they are, or want to be. In Cat¿s Eye, Elaine¿s brother, who she worships, is named Stephen (the first Christian martyr) and is murdered by terrorists. I wonder ¿ Margaret is a name of many names ¿ and Atwood, who uses the pseudonym O.W. Toad ¿ might just be on to something. This is fiction at its finest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After re-reading catseye, 2 years on from my original school project, I found that it is still as interesting and intricate the second time around. Although it has quite a slow start, he story progresses evenly, without leaving pockets of confusion in the readers mind or dwelling for too long on a given subject. Characters are well developed and Atwood could easily write a complimentary novel about Cordelia's life and side of the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All in all, it wasn't bad... but it wasn't good either. I felt that her childhood experiences were compelling-- pathos was felt for the characters. The character change, the power change in Cordelia and in Elaine, was interesting, but I felt that much more explination was needed and that the ending was a dissapointment. Not bad, but not good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for a project.After talking about it with the group I was working with I found out the only people that really liked this book were those that were into art. I didn't like it at all but hey, that's just my opinion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought Cat's Euye was an excellent book, to which many can relate. Although the beginning is a bit slow and hard to get into, towards the middle, you won't want to put the book down. I felt that the events occurring during Elaine's childhood are depicted without exageration, having experienced similar treatment myself. A compelling, suspenseful read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cat's eye is confusing at the beginning, but once the reader gets into the story, he/she is bound to love it. The writing technique and skills are amazing. The author manages to refer to both the present and the past without losing the atmospere. I just loved the book. The relationships between women are very detailed and realistic.
flywithme on LibraryThing 4 days ago
After reading The Handmaid's Tale, I set out to have all of Atwood's books... but so far haven't sat down to actually read any others... until now.Atwood writes the story of Elaine, who is doing an art retrospective back in the town where she spent most of her young life from age seven (or so) on. The visit takes Elaine (and the reader) back into her childhood where she recalls moving from place to place before settling down in Toronto and remembers and is haunted by a childhood and adolescence of emotional torture from her 'best friends.' The story is told mostly in flashbacks, coming closer and closer to the present-day. (Intermixed, however, is the current goings-ons.)It truly is amazing how the mind works to protect itself. Through the story, we see many defense mechanisms Elaine put into place just to get through all the struggles and live as contently as possible.When the book was nearing the end, I almost stopped reading... not because it wasn't good, but because I didn't want the world I've come to know to end. Atwood expertly creates this world (which seems quite paralleled to her own life in aspects) and the characters become more than just words on the paper.While I loved this book, I did find that the ending was lacking. I wanted more than what I received.CAUTIONARY NOTE: This book deals with suicide (attempts, thoughts) in a couple places.
kaelirenee on LibraryThing 5 days ago
Every time I read this book, I think "God, I'm glad I had a boy." It's so easy to see nips of my life, and everyone I've known's lives, somewhere in this book, which I think is part of Atwood's genius.
jillie on LibraryThing 5 days ago
This beautiful book was taken off the course list one year before I got to take the AP 12 Lit. class. So, I read it senior year, indepentantly from Kohan's class. And I loved it. I asked why she took it off the list and she replied "I didn't like the way the girls treated each other."Excuse me, but, what?
lindawwilson on LibraryThing 5 days ago
Excellent; girl to girl interactions were very accurate; gave the book to Tina-she liked it too.
samantha464 on LibraryThing 5 days ago
This was one of those books that's so complex and has so much emotion, plot, and character development packed in that I was actually exhausted when I finished it. Needless to say, it was a great read and I couldn't stop talking and thinking about it for months.
flutterbyjitters on LibraryThing 5 days ago
It was alright. Not nearly as good as Blind Assassin. A little too draggy.
knittingfreak on LibraryThing 5 days ago
The only experience I've had to this point with Atwood is The Handmaid's Tale, which I absolutely adore. When I read it last year, I couldn't believe how relevant it is to today's political climate, having been written in the 1980s. But, I think that's part of Atwood's considerable talent. Cat's Eye has some of the same elements -- women and relationships, the power people have over others, faith or the lack of faith, and regret over what might have been.Cat's Eye is the story of Elaine Risley who was born and raised in Toronto in the years following WWII. Elaine is now a moderately successful artist (although she prefers the term painter) living with her second husband, Ben and her two daughters in Vancouver. She returns to Toronto for a retrospective of her work and must face the demons that she has failed to exercise since leaving the city. Through flashbacks, Elaine recalls the challenges she faced as a child. From all appearances, she had a very typical childhood. In one way, the things she describes seem like the sorts of things we all went through as children -- being teased and left out. However, there's something more sinister about the way Elaine is treated by her 'friends' -- Carol, Grace and Cordelia. At one point, she is actually buried in a hole at night by the other girls. On the way home from school one day, she falls through the ice of a creek and almost dies. The other girls run off (I don't think they knew she had fallen in) and tell her mother that she had gotten in trouble and had to stay after school. Thankfully, her mother sees through the girls and goes to look for Elaine. The entire middle portion of the book contains situations such as these. It becomes almost too much for the reader at times. It sounds heartless, but at times I wanted to shout at the adult Elaine to just get over it. It's in the past. We all go through terrible things. But in the next few pages, I would find myself almost at the point of tears. Elaine is very gullible and naive, and her 'friends' take advantage of this. I actually remembered some things that happened to me as a child while reading this book. Oh, nothing quite as horrible, but still it was bad at the time.I often found myself wondering why Elaine's mother didn't do something. After all, she had to know that Elaine was miserable. Didn't she? But, I don't guess that's fair. Elaine didn't tell her parents anything about what went on among the girls. Again, looking back there are things that happened to me that I never said anything about to my parents, either. Towards the end of the book, Elaine has a conversation with her mom who is now quite elderly and ill. As they're going through things from an old trunk, her mother tells her that she knew 'those girls' were giving her a hard time. She wanted to protect her, but she didn't really know how. Sometimes intervening in situations only make things worse. But, then again she didn't know how far things had often gone.Elaine loses contact with Carol and Grace when they go to high school, but Cordelia remains a constant in Elaine's life. They consider themselves best friends, though it's not ever a healthy relationship for either of the girls. Elaine begins to see that Cordelia has demons of her own. She lacks the security of a healthy home that Elaine possesses. She also lacks Elaine's considerable intelligence and talent, as well. When Cordelia begins to self-destruct, she reaches out to Elaine. However, Elaine isn't able to help her. She doesn't know how; she doesn't really want to. Not because she's cruel or hates Cordelia. It's just too much for her. Elaine will carry this guilt with her throughout her life.This book made me glad all over again that I had boys. Girls can be so ruthless and heartless in their treatment of each other. Yes, boys fight, but it;s violent, quick, and then it's over. They're friends again. They don't hold secret grudges. They don't talk about each other behind their backs. They sometimes perpet
smallwonder56 on LibraryThing 5 days ago
This is one of my favorite books--I think I've read it ten times. I had a friend in high school who was almost exactly like the controlling friend. It's taken most of 30 years for me to work through the dynamics of the relationship and to learn to trust women friends again. It is exquisitely written, and, most importantly, absolutely emotionally true.
ilovecookies on LibraryThing 5 days ago
Elaine is an artist who returns to Toronto (where she grew up) to attend a retrospective of her work at a gallery. The book is about Elaine's memories of growing up in Toronto - from her girlhood to her first marriage. Not one of Atwood's more memorable books.
ragwaine on LibraryThing 5 days ago
Too damn long, just a long character study of a character that wasn't that interesting.
ntempest on LibraryThing 5 days ago
Atwood has such a great memory for the way children treat each other. So much of the flashbacks in this book were hauntingly familiar, and as one of those book-worm type children who was often taunted and picked on, I really clicked with these characters. It helps that Atwood spoke at my college the year this was released; I'm such a sucker for hearing the work read aloud by the author. Never fails to make an impression, even the bad readers, and Atwood is certainly not one of those.
Wuzzlicious on LibraryThing 9 days ago
A slow, but satisfying read. This book ambles through the life of a woman who seems lost. You get the feeling that she's misplaced her identity somewhere along life's path and she's still searching for it through the memories of her childhood. The scenes of the torment her girlhood friends inflicted on her were touching and a reminder of how truly cruel children can be.
heidilove on LibraryThing 11 days ago
This was a book that Rob and I read back and forth, with post-its and conversation throughout. I think it inspired more words than are between the covers, and if that's not the ultimate recommendation, what is?