To me, language is almost everything. I say almost because while I have certainly enjoyed many novels where nothing much ever happens, I am also a sucker for a good story. Who isn't? Interesting thoughts beautifully expressed are often enough for me, and yet I'll admit a great plot is the icing on the cake. Take Michael Ondaatje's last book for example - The Cat's Table is filled with striking imagery, themes that shimmer in the foreground and disappear like threads in a rich tapestry. As in his earlier works, like the Booker Prize winning The English Patient, Ondaatje creates characters so interesting that one wishes they existed in the real world.
The Cat's Table includes a cast of memorable people inhabiting a ship making a three week voyage from Ceylon to London in 1955. They include a dangerous criminal being taken to England for trail, an extreamely wealthy Columbo businessman who seeks delivererance from both a dog bite and a powerful curse, thieves, acrobats, bridge sharks and undercover agents....the list goes on and on. Not the least interesting among the passengers are three very young boys, one of whom is our narrator. These boys occupy "the cat's table" the dining table furthest from the captain's table and therefore the lowest in prestige. But it is at this very table that our hero discovers a truth - that many of the most important events occur far from the corridors of power and influence. Throughout The Cat's Table various stories weave in and out of each other, creating a whole out of the sum of its parts. Some stories are funny, others magical, and more than a few are heartbreaking.
I picked up this book because I saw that the Louise Riley Adult Book Club was discussing it in October and I was interested to see what kind of "book club" book it would be. I think it brings up so many ideas about art, authority, innocence, love and loyalty that I can't imagine even scratching the surface of what it has to say in one book club meeting. Still it would be fascinating to hear what others thought of it.
If you are interested, there is still space available...and time to read it! Copies have been set aside at the Louise Riley, so if you register a copy will be available for you.