Nominated by:

De Bib Leuven, Belgium

Ottawa Public Library, Canada

Edmonton Public Library, Canada

Richmond Public Library, USA

Miami-Dade Public Library System, USA

Calgary Public Library, Canada

Boston Public Library, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

Alfred A. Knopf, USA

McClelland & Stewart Inc., Canada

Jonathan Cape, UK

The Cat’s Table

Michael Ondaatje      

2013 Longlist

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England – a ‘castle that was to cross the sea’. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly ‘Cat’s Table’ with an eccentric group of grown-ups and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys become involved in the worlds and stories of the adults around them, tumbling from one adventure and delicious discovery to another, ‘bursting all over the place like freed mercury’. And at night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner – his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.

(From Publisher)

About the Author

Michael Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka in 1943. In the 1950s he moved to England, and went to school in south London. In 1962 he emigrated to Canada, where he has lived ever since. His books include his memoir, Running in the Family, numerous collections of poetry, and five novels – including The English Patient which won the 1992 Booker Prize.

Librarians’ Comments

The Cat’s Table is the story of a sea journey, a large ship and three 11 year old boys sharing adventures that will shape their lives. Ondaatje deftly tells the story through the eyes of a child and the adult that he becomes. The author’s mastery of language and, perhaps, love of this story make The Cat’s Table  an exceptional novel.

The narrator of this book is looking back at his sea voyage as a young boy, and how the events and people of that voyage shaped his life. It is beautifully written and very satisfying, perfectly capturing the tone of an older person recalling the wondrous new experiences of a child.

The tale of a life changing voyage from Colombo to Britain, an 11 year olds reminiscences on this period of his life.

Seemingly autobiographical, wonderful Bildungsroman (coming-of-age story); a novel that celebrates ‘the insignificant’ – in this case the ‘powerless’ children at the cat’s table.

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England – a ‘castle that was to cross the sea’. The Cat’s Table is a vivid, poignant and thrilling book, full of Ondaatje’s trademark set-pieces and breathtaking images: a story told with a child’s sense of wonder by a novelist at the very height of his powers.

A wonderful story about the richness that can only be found at the margins of society.

The imaginative viewpoint of a young boy travelling the world on his own, this story engages and inspires us, and the narrator, too, who is forever influenced by what transpired on that voyage.

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