I think we all have those times in our childhood that seem to define the adult we've become - or else suggest the person we wish we were. In The Cat's Table
, we encounter the vividly imagined adventure of an 11-year-old boy on an ocean-liner trip from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to England in the 1950s, as told by the grown man who traces all the features of his current life back to that voyage. How different would he have been if not for that journey?
The boy, known as Mynah, has been living with his aunt and uncle for several years since his mother moved to England. He is sent to live with her - traveling without a guardian - and he leaves everything he knows behind, heading for a world he can't really picture. The three weeks he spends on this huge ship/playground are something like heaven for a pre-teen boy. However, the man, Michael, has a life of no firm...
Beyond the Book
While the terms used on a ship sound familiar to me, I often don't really know what they mean. Many people recognize that a cabin is a room, and a porthole is a window, but what exactly is a purser, and which direction is the stern? If you're not sure, the definitions of the seafaring expressions below - all used in The Cat's Table
- might help you navigate the book.
- officers' mess: The room where the officers eat.
- purser: An officer who handles financial accounts and keeps money and valuables for the passengers.
- pilot: Someone who is brought on to help the ship safely navigate difficult passages, often while leaving or entering a harbor. While on an airplane the pilot is likely the Captain, on a...