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Sixth & I

Michael Ondaatje

Nov 16, 2011 • 7:00 pm ET
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In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the “cat’s table”—as far from the Captain’s Table as can be—with a group of “insignificant” adults and two other boys. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another. But there are other diversions as well: one man talks with them about jazz and women, another opens the door to the world of literature.

As the narrative moves between the decks and holds of the ship and the boy’s adult years, The Cat’s Table becomes a spellbinding story about the magical, often forbidden, discoveries of childhood and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.

Ondaatje is the author of The English Patient which won the Booker Prize and was an Academy Award-winning film.