I’m studying a Margaret Atwood module this term at uni and before I started the only novel that I had heard of by the Canadian author was The Handmaid’s Tale. Now, a few weeks in, I’ve discovered she has a whole wealth of books behind her and after reading Cat’s Eye this week it has shot up to my all-time favourites list.
Written in 1988, the novel follows Elaine Risley’s life as she reflects back on her childhood years as the narrative flicks between the past and the present and for anyone wondering, it is nothing like the story of The Handmaid’s Tale. The story of Cat’s Eye is told by Elaine as she returns to her hometown in Toronoto, where she is overcome with repressed memories from her past. The book is full of subtle acts of revenge, fear, sadness and moments of guilt, along with a little sprinkling of humor to balance it all out and while it is a bit slow to begin with, once I was hooked I was hooked.
In all honesty, Cat’s Eye is a tale of trauma that is a little bit too close to home for anyone woman who remembers the horrors of childhood bullying and Atwood tackles the issues of power relationships between young girls with an unapologetic accuracy. Elaine recaps on her childhood friendships, her romantic relationships and peppers her story with her somewhat controversial artwork as a way of vividly reflecting on her past which works to add another layer to the already uncanny narration. The honesty of the narrative is heartbreaking and I challenge anyone to read this book without feeling close to tears or uncomfortable at least once as Atwood takes you right to the brink of emotional turmoil and then brings you back with increasing levels of uneasiness as she blurs the lines between the bully and the victim. As a reader, your loyalties are never fully set in stone as all of the characters and the situations they find themselves in are scarily relatable and anyone who says otherwise is lying to themselves.
In short, I would say that this is one book everyone should make the time to read at some point in their life and the only tip I can say is to stick with it past the first few pages as it is 100% worth toiling through them.