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Cal [Paperback]

Bernard Mac Laverty
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 April 1998
One of a series of classic fiction titles for schools, this is a story of love and hate, set in strife-torn Belfast. A young Catholic falls in love with a young Protestant widow whose husband he has recently helped to murder. The book contains some uninhibited and explicit language.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,059,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea 17 Oct 2000
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Half way there 22 Jun 2014
By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Print size too small 2 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I purchased this for my son in print - the print size is far too small so I had to buy it in Kindle form for him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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
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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4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful novel! 27 May 2004
By A Customer
I first read Cal doing my higher English and found it a powerful peace of writing. Cal is a very dark novel. It is set in the early 80s, and is about a young man who gets heavly involved with the IRA, and is trying to deal with what he has done, while being involved (which I will not tell you because it will spoil the plot!) Bernard Mac Laverty has done a excellent job in showing the reader the troubles in Northen Irland without taking sides, and telling us the story of how these times affect normal people. This book would have got 5 stars, but I found it a bit slow at times.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A trip down memory lane 20 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
On being set the book Cal by my uni lecturer I thought, oh god, not again!!! I had read it many years ago at school and didn't relish the prospect of doing it again!! The only upside for me was at least i could rely on Amazon having it at a good price. When I received Cal I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I got into the storyline again, Bernard Maclaverty brings to life the troubles in Ireland and the characters jump off the page, almost as if you are there beside them. There are tender moments between the two main characters and you will everything to end well, but will it? Well you have to buy the book to find out, I promise you it is worth it.
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