'What had there been before such a ship in my life? A dugout canoe on a river journey? A launch in Trincomalee harbour? There were always fishing boats on our horizon. But I could never imagine the grandeur of this castle that was to cross the sea'.
In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner in Colombo bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the lowly 'cat's table' - as far from the Captain's table as can be - with a ragtag group of adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship crosses the Indian Ocean the boys tumble from one adventure to another,and at night they spy on a shackled prisoner - his crime and fate a mystery that will haunt them forever...
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One of the most admirable and enthralling literary novels of the year - Daily Mail
Extraordinary - Guardian
Superbly poised between the magic of innocence and the melancholy of experience - The Economist
Michael Ondaatje's impressive new novel, containing dreams and fantasy between a ship's flanks...is, in the most etymological way, a wonderful novel: one full of wonders - Daily Telegraph
Atmospheric, elegiac and at times, like Ondaatje's most famous novel, The English Patient, unbearably poignant - Tatler
I love this book: the boys running wild on the long sea voyage, the slow revelation of the adult world they don't fully understand, the loss of the past and the beginning of the future, and even a sort of thriller in there! And the beauty of the sentences. Perfection -
Wondrous - Financial Times
Part memoir, complete masterpiece... Written with tenderness, wisdom and sharp emotional recall, this is an exuberant elegy to innocence - Intelligent Life
Grave and playful at the same time, beautifully written and moving - The Times
It's impossible to explain through any discussion of plot and character the hypnotic brilliance of The Cat's Table. The joy of boyhood and the darkness at its edges are conveyed in sense of extraordinary imagination... It is entirely...well, Ondaatje-esque - Guardian, Books of the Year
Vividly follows the passage from Ceylon to England of an 10 year-old boy on a line full of eccentric, mysterious passengers - Irish Times, Books of the Year
Ondaatje's prose, flawless as ever, deals with loneliness, friendship and pre-pubescent love - Irish Times, Books of the Year
Michael Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka in 1943. In the 1950s he moved to England, and went to school in south London. In 1962 he emigrated to Canada, where he has lived ever since. His books include his memoir, Running in the Family, numerous collections of poetry, and five novels - including The English Patient which won the 1992 Booker Prize.