By Jennifer Dupree, Circulation Manager of the Windham Public Library
“Cat’s Eye” is only the second Margaret Atwood novel I’ve read, and I wouldn’t know how to accurately compare it to “The Handmaid’s Tale”. I loved both books, but where “The Handmaid’s Tale” is creepy and frightening and futuristic, “Cat’s Eye” feels slower, more real, and deeply rooted in time and place.
Elaine, a fifty-year-old artist, returns home to her native Toronto for a retrospective of her work. The novel moves between Elaine’s present—her anxieties about the show, a meeting with a journalist, her complicated feelings about ex-husband, and the changes to her home town—and her growing-up years.
The scenes that encompass Elaine’s childhood are richly textured and beautifully rendered. She and her brother travel with their parents during the summer because her father’s work as an entomologist demands it. After they settle in Toronto, Elaine makes friends, or, she becomes part of a group of girls who are sometimes her friends and sometimes not, in the way adolescent girls can be. The scenes with Elaine’s friends, most notably Cordelia, are haunting in their sharp loneliness, in the accuracy of what it is like to be a child and teenager, to be on the fringe of acceptance.
This book tackles big subjects—marriage, infidelity, terrorism, death, sex, grief. Yet, it’s a quiet novel with a steady pace. It isn’t rushed. Largely it is a novel about insecurity, about finding one’s footing in the world. About finding it over and over again.