Michael Ondaatje is a master writer. His prose is so lyrical, it flows, it wraps around your imagination. I wasn't sure what I was going to make of The Cat's Table. The premise seemed simple enough, but simple things did not happen on the ship, Oronsay, as it traveled from Sri Lanka to England. There were so many twists and turns, paths not to be taken, and ones all too alluring.
The Cat's Table is primarily told from the perspective of Michael (nicknamed Mynah), on his journey to be reunited with his mother in England. The story feels so real as it's being told. Michael grows up to be an author, which is the last piece of information that makes you wonder if the tale is actually autobiographical. Much of what happens to the main character feels real. The people he meets feel real. It has a "life story" sensibility. You could be told this tale is a memoir and you would believe it. It is so believable, that Ondaatje includes a note at the end of the story telling the reader that the story is fictional. He did not take a trip on a boat called the Oronsay. Apparently, there were many boats with that name travelling from Sri Lanka to England during that time.
By the end of the novel, my heart had begun to reach out to Emily. I was so happy that she and Michael reconnected. I was glad that they figured out the truth of what happened to the CID agent. I loved all the characters. Cassius and Ramadhin felt like really people. They felt like they could have been life-long friends. I immensely enjoyed Mr. Daniels and Miss Lasqueti. Miss Lasqueti's story was an interesting one, folded into Michael's. Having finished the book, it really is difficult not to see these characters as real. They felt real. Ondaatje created people going on a journey, not just physical, but within themselves as well. I want to know what happened to all of them. How did they live their lives? Were they happy? Also, was Mynah ever Ondaatje's nickname? He took a trip like this when he was young. What interesting characters were on the boat with him? The Cat's Table still has me thinking. A beautiful read, The Cat's Table shows off Ondaatje at his lyrical best.