From Michael Ondaatje: a stunning new novel, by turns poignant and electrifying—one of his most vividly rendered works of fiction.
In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a ship bound for England, and at mealtimes is seated at the “cat’s table” with a ragtag 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, “bursting all over the place like freed mercury.” But there are other diversions: one man talks to them about jazz and women, another about literature. And at night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner—his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.
As the narrative moves between the decks and holds of the ship and the boy’s adult years, it tells a spellbinding story about the differences between the tender innocence of childhood and the burdens of earned understanding, and about a lifelong journey that began unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.