by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Cat's Eye / 0-385-49102-6
I've read that "Cat's Eye" is supposed to be Atwood's most autobiographical novel, and it certainly shows. The book is a long one - well over 400 pages - but it flies by quickly. Atwood lingers over lavish descriptions of childhood loneliness and the cruelties which are so often inflicted by children; for readers whose childhood was characterized by a loving home but with unbearable peers, this book will strike a deep chord.
As a child, Elaine is constantly berated by her companions. She frequently feels unhappy and yet is unaware of her unhappiness, unable to process the fact that her "friends" are not friendly to her at all. She develops body dismorphic disorder: chewing her fingers, peeling off the skin from her feet, and developing a small appetite and an inability to keep her food down. Her mother recognizes that her child is unhappy, but feels powerless to confront the underlying problem, and once the damage is done and internalized, Elaine's problems seem destined to remain with her into adulthood.
Internalized feelings of self-hate and depression are difficult to exorcise, and even as an adult, Elaine remains conflicted over the years with regards to her rights, her worth, and her defects. Her relationships with men are strained and difficult; her timid approach to feminism is stymied from her fear that she hasn't "suffered enough" to be included in the ranks. Even her own paintings - hailed as incredible feminist icons - plague her with guilt and doubt.
"Cat's Eye" is a wonderful treatise on the nature of guilt and childhood anguish, and how the scars obtained in childhood can stay with a person forever. No answers are offered, just a mirror to reflect the reader's own doubts back at them.
~ Ana Mardoll
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