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Cal Paperback – 30 Apr 1998


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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; Open market ed edition (30 April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140169644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140169645
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 11 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,916,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"Simple humanity, eloquently caught....Though Cal is a bleak novel, there is a flicker of lyricism running through it, like the sun shining through the shattered windows of a ruined church" (New York Times)

"To fashion a short, telling novel out of the hideous complexities of Northern Ireland takes narrative skill of a high order. In Cal Bernard MacLaverty has managed to do it superbly" (Nina Bawden)

"It performs the remarkable feat of compressing into its short span both a doomed love affair and an account of the impossibility of living, in the circumstances of that doomed province, without redemption and without punishment… MacLaverty has a true feeling for tragedy’" (Anita Brookner) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A haunting love story set against the grim backdrop of fear and violence in Northern Ireland. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
He stood at the back gateway of the abattoir, his hands thrust into his pockets, his stomach rigid with the ache of want. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "chris-spriet" on 17 Oct. 2000
Format: Paperback
Set in war-torn Northern Ireland in a hard-pressed Protestant district, MacLaverty's Cal mixes the somehow predictable love affair between representatives of opposing sides with the tragedy of the political situation. Though some simplification in the development of the content might cause reserve with the trained reader, the author does succeed both in keeping the outward tension going as well as in building up acceptably to the inevitability of making the best of both worlds.
From ample (classroom) experience, I hold the view that any reader can benefit by this short novel, which draws from the author's authentic experience. Cal deserves a place alongside with other works dealing with inevitably continuing conflict where prejudice leaves an unbridgeable social and emotional gap. A most satisfactory read, and an early promise of such top-quality successors as Grace Notes. (Not untypically, the quality of the book exceeds the one of the film by far.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By realbookreview on 13 July 2013
Format: Paperback
First published in 1983 this novel, set in Northern Ireland, outside Belfast, is almost historical. Taking place during 'the troubles' and before the 'peace process' this is the story of Cal a nineteen year old unemployed youth, unemployed because he couldn't stomach the job his father got him in the local abbatoir. Cal and his father are the last Catholic family on a Protestant housing estate and are being victimised. Without condoning the violence, the reader begins to understand how a person could get wrapped up in the religious bigotry surrounding them, sympathises with Cal's boredom, his bullying colleagues and his life-long fears.

He washed his hair while sitting in the bath, pouring jugfuls of water over his head. With his eyes closed against soap and cascading water he felt very vulnerable. What if someone were to burst into the bathroom now? How easy a target he would be, stark naked, blinded, groping with outstretched arms for a towel. It was a feeling he had had ever since childhood.

Will Cal get more wrapped up in the troubles? Will he and his father be forced to leave the estate? The biggest question comes from Cal's total infatuation with Marcela the local librarian. Will they eventually get together and, what is the reason that Cal finds it so dangerous to be near her? Compare this novel with the worse poverty of, turn of the century Dublin in Roddy Doyle's "A Star Called Henry"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE on 22 Jun. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The elements that deal with ordinary life in the Troubles are convincing and make this a worthwhile insight. It should be good as Mr MacLaverty has the personal experience to draw on. A very good description of working class life. Think 'Kes' but without the AK47s.

There are some moments of jaw-dropping, jet-black humour as Cal waits each night to be fire-bombed out of his home. The effect on the community and Cal's familiy of all the violence and hatred is chillingly effective including a memorable line about Cal's father turning from iron into plasticine There are many moral questions implicit in all the Troubles stuff but in this short book it is often easier not to dwell.

Unfortunately, the 'love story' elements just don't ring true. Another reviewer described them as 'toe-curling' which is not far off the mark. As a result, I liked the book but I didn't believe in it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tom in London on 30 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
Given that later on MacLaverty matured into the master he now is, perhaps we can forgive him for the way in which he chose to conclude "Cal", with a third-rate love story ending that makes one's toes curl in embarrassment.

The shame is that the first three-quarters of "Cal" is MacLaverty at his best, with the skill to let you, the reader, work out what's going on, rather than tell you. This could have been the great "novel of the Troubles" if he had spent more time on the ending, and been more courageous about finishing it.

If this is your first experience of MacLaverty don't be put off. Move on to his short stories, such as "Matters of Life and Death". He's become one of the best living writers, anywhere.
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Format: Paperback
Bernard MacLaverty has not written anything like as many books as he might have. Since Lamb in 1980 he has produced just three more novels of which 'Cal' was the second. This is a great pity as Northern Ireland and specifically 'the troubles' need good works of literature to help us understand them. It has often been said that conventional history books are all well and good but if you really want the 'truth', if you really want to understand why people feel and behave the way they do you need fiction to guide you. Good authors delve deep into the human soul and expose things that historians never can. MacLaverty is one such author. Through his eponymous hero he shows us what it actually feels like to live in a street where all your neighbours despise you just because of where you go to Church. The shattered shell of a man that Cal's previously strong and proud father becomes after years of harassment is truly tragic and a direct consequence of Northern Ireland's 'troubles'.

Similarly MacLaverty explores how it feels to live your life knowing every day that you have done something truly terrible. Cal can never escape what he has done. His guilt grows with him until finally he seeks and finds the punishment he feels he deserves. Alongside this MacLaverty gives us a simple but moving love story from the perspective of a young man with all the passion, frustration and animal lust that come with it.

'Cal' is not a perfect book, like most novels about Northern Ireland there is over-simplification of politics at times and the pace of the story falters a little in the middle. It is however, worthily conceived and skilfully executed. Both a good introduction to the Northern Ireland of the nineteen-eighties and an engagingly tragic love story in its own right.
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