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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 âcatâs tableââas far from the Captainâs Table as can beâwith a ragtag group of âinsignificantâ adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. 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 as well: one man talks with them about jazz and women, another opens the door to the world of literature. The narratorâs elusive, beautiful cousin Emily becomes his confidante, allowing him to see himself âwith a distant eyeâ for the first time, and to feel the first stirring of desire. Another Catâs Table denizen, the shadowy Miss Lasqueti, is perhaps more than what she seems. And very late every night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner, his crime and his fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.
As the narrative moves between the decks and holds of the ship and the boyâs adult years, it tells a spellbinding storyâby turns poignant and electrifyingâabout the magical, often forbidden, discoveries of childhood and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.From the Hardcover edition.