Michael Ondaatje is probably most famous for The English Patient and I found his lyrical style of prose easy and beautiful to read with almost a poetic effect. The Cat's Table tells the story of eleven-year old Michael, on a lone voyage from Colombo to England. During this life-changing journey, he meets a cast of colourful characters who he will never forget.
The title comes from the table he is allotted at meal-times, furthest away from where the Captain dines, which he shares with a mixture of adults and two other boys his age - Cassius and Ramadhin. The two boys are experiencing a type of freedom for the first time and cause chaos on the boat, spying on thing's they shouldn't be and become obsessed with the mysterious shackled prisoner who only emerges under heavy guard at night-time.
The story is told from Michael's memory as an adult, and as he was a boy with an over-active imagination, there may be parts which are exaggerated. The novel is almost a series of short stories as we are introduced one-by-one to his ship-mates and told their life story. Their lives all become woven together and the events that happen on the ship will impact Michael's life forever.
I enjoyed reading this book in particular Ondaatje's narrative techniques when describing the sea, the long journey, the ship's 'secret garden' and of course Michael's fellow voyagers. This book would be perfect as a holiday read, so add it to your suitcase this summer.