In the early 1950s in Ceylon an eleven-year-old boy is put alone aboard a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the insignificant "cat's table"--as far from the Captain's table as can be--with two other lone boys and a small group of strange fellow passengers: one appears to be a shadowy figure from the British Secret Service; another a mysterious thief, another seems all too familiar with the dangerous ways of women and crime. On the long sea voyage across the Indian Ocean and through the Suez Canal, the three boys rush from one wild adventure and startling discovery to another: experiencing the first stirrings of desire, spying at night on a notorious shackled prisoner, moving easily between the decks and holds of the ship. As the secretive adult world is slowly revealed, they begin to realize that a drama is unfolding on board, and the prisoner's crime and fate will be a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them and link them forever.
MICHAEL ONDAATJE is the author of five previous novels, a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and several books of poetry. The English Patient won the Booker Prize; Anil's Ghost won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Prix Médicis. Born in Sri Lanka, Ondaatje now lives in Toronto.
"A completely original orchestration of a coming-of-age story, memoir, maritime adventure as powerful as Conrad or Stevenson.... Astonishing."
—Howard Norman, The Globe and Mail
"Ondaatje's most accessible, most compelling novel to date."
—Robert J Wiersema, The Vancouver Sun
"Michael Ondaatje is the greatest living writer in the English language.... All that is great in his other books is fully present in The Cat's Table."
—Aleksander Hemon, The Wall Street Journal (Favourite Book of 2011)
"The most beautiful, haunting and ageless book I've read this year."
—Pico Iyer, The Hindu