Volume 17 Number 1
Atwood begins this novel by painstakingly pointing out that this is a work of fiction and that "although its form is that of an autobiography, it is not one."
Like her creator, Elaine Risley is a well-known artist approaching middle age, whose childhood summers were spent collecting insects in the wilds of Ontario with her scientist father before the family moved to Toronto. Unlike Atwood, Risley is a painter living in Vancouver, and she returns to the city of her childhood to attend a retrospective exhibition of her work. This artistic event occasions a personal retrospective for during the course of her present visit, Risley is constantly confronted by reminders of her past.
Cat's Eye is not just a novel about the trials of growing up, nor is it a polemical work about the difficulties of being both an artist and a woman, nor is it merely a commentary on urban angst in the 1980s. All Of these elements are present, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A compelling work, it is not nearly as bleak or as experimental in form as The Handmaid's Tale ¹, but it is still a work for mature readers capable of handling the ebb and flow of memory and present observation while savouring the spare cleanness of Atwood's prose and her acerbic wit.
Whether as a text for a course in Canadian or twentieth-century literature or as a book for supplemental reading, Cat's Eye is a valuable addition to the library at the senior grades of high school and beyond.
Joanne K. A. Peters, Sisler High School, Winnipeg, MB.
¹ Reviewed vol. XIV/1 January 1986, pp.12-13.
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