The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje – a review

My review in short:  it stunk.  Lots of purple prose that had me rolling my eyes and thinking “Oh brother,” and a story that took forever to go anywhere.  This was the only Michael Ondaatje I’ve read, and I don’t understand why he’s regarded as a great writer.  Was The English Patient better?  Anil’s Ghost?  Maybe his editor just gave up on this one?  Figured he’d sell a bazillion copies regardless, so why bother trying to make the book readable?  The biggest question for me, of course, is whether I should bother delving further into Ondaatje’s canon.  Suggestions from the readers of this blog with respect to this question would be much appreciated.

The writing reminded me a lot of John Irving – overwrought, overly precious.  Come on, man.  Just let the story speak for itself.  If you need to dress it up this much, the material you’re working with probably stinks.  And this story could have been much better, but he blew it with his self-important writing style.

There was one section I really did enjoy, but I was fairly drunk when I read it, so my judgement is suspect.

I bought my copy at Indigo on Princess Street in Kingston, Ontario a few weeks ago.  I was looking for something fun to read during my brief vacation, so I limited my browsing to whatever was on the tables at the front of the store.  The Cat’s Table was emblazoned with a sticker declaring it “Heather’s Pick.”  Heather, I don’t know who you are, but my reading interests and yours don’t seem to share much ground.


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