Challenges: My Year of Reading Dangerously
# of pages: 462
Quote: “Inside her half-open cloak there’s a glimpse of red. It’s her heart, I think. It must be her heart, on the outside of her body, glowing like neon, like a coal.” -Elaine p.209
This is March’s book for My Year of Reading Dangerously, but even though I didn’t even start it until April, I still wanted to read it because I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood and enjoyed it, so I wanted to see what Cat’s Eye would be about.
I wasn’t disappointed. Although this novel is dark and somewhat depressing, in a similar way to The Handmaid’s Tale, it is also filled with truth and provides more of an understanding to situations that many women all over the world experience. There were times when this Elaine’s story hit close to home and other times I was glad I didn’t go through everything she went through in her childhood. Through it all, I appreciated Atwood’s ability to write a story that explains the feelings of so many little girls and what they go through as they struggle to fit in at school and in their peer groups.
Elaine spent the first 8 years of her life traveling with her entomologist father, her outdoorsy and adventurous mother, and her genius and very boyish brother. As a result, she has learned to be a tomboy, concerned more with playing make believe games of war and catching bugs to look at under a microscope than with playing dolls and dress up. Suddenly her parents move to Toronto and buy a permanent home. Elaine finds herself in the midst of other girls her age, girls that she knows nothing about.
The story is told from Elaine’s point of view after she is grown up, with 2 grown daughters and a successful career as a painter. Her return to Toronto has her reflecting on her life, from childhood to being a young mother who finally leaves Toronto to make her own life in Vancouver. This would be a great book club book. There’s a lot of symbolism such as the blue cat’s eye marble, the bridge, and Elaine’s paintings and painting techniques. It’s also interesting to see how Elaine’s past has affected her present life as a painter. In the end, the question is whether Elaine can accept her past and be content with her life.
I was impressed that although this book is about women, it really isn’t a feminist book. I liked Elaine because she was so much of a tomboy and didn’t even enjoy being around girls. Elaine is perceived as a feminist painter, but she doesn’t understand why people think this about her because women are the ones she can’t get along with and doesn’t understand. Her paintings are just paintings in her own eyes, but other women see symbols and rally around her. At the end of the book, I think Elaine finds that she has to accept herself as a woman.
I recommend this book to others who enjoy Atwood’s novels or who are looking for an in depth book. It doesn’t even require you to pull apart the writing and decide what the symbols mean, that is just something that can be done if you want to put the time into it. The novel will provoke natural thought, which is always a bonus in my opinion.