The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje - review by John Thieme

John Thieme

Rites of Passage

The Cat’s Table

By

Jonathan Cape 265pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

Michael Ondaatje’s new novel concludes with a familiar disclaimer telling its readers that its characters are fictional. In this case it is a more necessary caveat than usual, since the book has a narrator named Michael who, like Ondaatje, hails from Sri Lanka; and Michael records events that occurred on his sea journey as an eleven-year-old to England, where, like Ondaatje, he subsequently attended Dulwich College. In later life, Michael has become a writer and, again like Ondaatje, he appears to live mainly in Canada. 

In his disclaimer, Ondaatje admits to sometimes using ‘the colouring and locations of memoir and autobiography’, and the early sections of The Cat’s Table, which describe the first part of Michael’s journey to England, have much in common with the Sri Lankan memoir, Running in the Family, that

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