Written by Michael Ondaatje.
The Cat's Table follows the course of a 21 day voyage from Colombo to Tilbury on a luxury passenger ship called the Oronsay.
It is the early nineteen-fifties and the eleven year old Michael whose parents' turbulent marriage has resulted in his mother living in England for the past three or four years, is being sent to join her in London.
He becomes friends with two other young boys - Cassius and Ramadhin who are also seated at the table, dubbed the Cat's Table by one of their fellow diners, which is the lowliest of the low, the other end of the scale from The Captain's Table.
For the next three weeks these children have the run of the boat, they are invisible to authority, literally and emotionally feral.
They feel their way amongst the adult world, observing and being baffled by the overheard conversations and secret glances.
It is a journey towards an understanding of maturity, a journey which forges friendships and lays the foundations of love as well as of betrayal.
Among their fellow passengers are the exuberant travelling pianist Mr Mazappa; a botanist transporting a miraculously exotic garden of powerful and dangerous plants all growing in the hold of the ship; the enigmatic Ms Lasqueti and her prize pigeons; a troupe of acrobatic performers with remarkable powers of discernment and the mysterious and terrifying prisoner whose nightly exercise is observed by the breathless boys.
The lives of all those on board become entwined in a compelling narrative whose events have an impact which ripples out into the future and the world of adulthood.
Abridged by Jill Waters
Read by Sam Dastor
Produced by Jill Waters
A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.
1950s Colombo: 11-year-old Michael embarks on a life-changing voyage to London.