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The Gamal [Paperback]

Ciarán Collins
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
RRP: £12.99
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Book Description

11 April 2013

Meet Charlie. People think he's crazy. But he's not. People think he's stupid. But he's not. People think he's innocent...

He's the Gamal.

Charlie has a story to tell, about his best friends Sinéad and James and the bad things that happened. But he can't tell it yet, at least not till he's worked out where the beginning is.

Because is the beginning long ago when Sinéad first spoke up for him after Charlie got in trouble at school for the millionth time? Or was it later, when Sinéad and James followed the music and found each other? Or was it later still on that terrible night when something unspeakable happened after closing time and someone chose to turn a blind eye?

Charlie has promised Dr Quinn he'll write 1,000 words a day, but it's hard to know which words to write. And which secrets to tell...

This is the story of the dark heart of an Irish village, of how daring to be different can be dangerous and how there is nothing a person will not do for love.

Exhilarating, bitingly funny and unforgettably poignant, this is a story like no other. This is the story of the Gamal.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus; 1st Edition edition (11 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408827840
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408827840
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 15.2 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 404,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Perfectly captures the joys and sorrows of adolescence and the maddening claustrophobia of a small Irish village. Its nearest literary ancestor would be The Catcher in the Rye (Edna O'Brien)

Astonishing. Inventive. Playful. Unique. A novel to savour. Ciarán Collins is the real deal (Colum McCann)

The real pleasure of the novel lies with Charlie, who is both naive and knowing. His narration is shot through with a sly humour that's a delight to read ... Well-judged finish leaves the reader space to reconsider the mass of Charlie's words (Guardian)

The Gamal by Ciarán Collins forced me to read it from the first page and it's not left my head since I finished it. Funny and sad is the holy grail of coming of age novels for me and I can't remember the last time a book made me honk with laughter, only to force me to get off the tube early with tears streaming down my face fifty pages later. People have compared it to Roddy Doyle, Patrick McCabe and Paul Murray but it has an energy, a range and a confidence all of its own. It's an overused phrase but The Gamal is an astonishing debut and I feel sure Collins will go on and produce a career of wonderful work (Evie Wyld, Flavorwire)

Ciarán Collins's ambitious yet well-anchored debut novel elicits a strong emotional reaction by setting two irreconcilable extremes on a collision course ... Alternately cynical and idealistic, "the gamal" is an insightful witness, absorbing more than he lets on . A disturbing moral tale told with flair and an ear for stinging vernacular, this will haunt the memory as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet set in Cork (Sunday Times Ireland)

The Gamal is an audacious debut. 114,124 words from an unforgettable narrator (John Boyne on Twitter)

An outstanding book. Incredibly funny . with hints of genuine tragedy at the heart of it (John Boland, RTE Radio One)

He is a tremendous storyteller ... The Gamal sprawls to more than 450 pages, but the unflagging ingenuity of Ciarán Collins's writing justifies its length. He exists somewhere in a literary territory between Patrick McCabe and Roddy Doyle, but he is very much his own man and this is a cracking debut, as moving as it is entertaining (Independent on Sunday)

There is nothing quite like reading a first novel by a truly original new talent. Ciaran Collins's tale of star-crossed lovers explores the darkness, cruelty and bitterness behind the banter of Irish village life. A novel of wit, boisterous humour and also inevitable tears. Collins is in a great Irish story-telling tradition going back to Roddy Doyle, Sean O'Faolain and Flann O'Brien (Gavin Esler)

Ciarán Collins's The Gamal is the story of an outsider, Charlie, a 25-year-old social misfit who might be violent, a kind of Grendel, misunderstood and underestimated. As is usually the case with outsiders, though, Charlie has an uncommonly clear view of everyone in the village. Funny, smart and warm, here's a voice that will catch you by surprise (David Vann)

Ciarán Collins has created a highly individual voice for his hero in this stellar debut (Herald (Glasgow))

A mixture between Butcher Boy, Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha and Catcher in the Rye . You'll lash through it . It's funny and tragic and brilliant all at the same time . I struck gold with it (Ryan Tubridy, RTE 2)

It's with a Shakespearean element of irony that Collins's main narrator . Actually ends up defining a number of home truths to the so-called sane society he doesn't fit the parameters of (Irish Examiner)

The depiction of village jealousies is reminiscent of Patrick McCabe, the language is Roddy Doyle transported to a rural backwater, but these are trivial comparisons. What first-time novelist Ciaran Collins has produced is much more than a pastiche of small-town Ireland; to describe it as a love story or a coming-of-age book or a treatment of mental illness would do it an injustice, though there are elements of all of those things.

With its mixture of mordant humour, astute observation and clever use of postmodern devices, it is a book that is unique in itself and breaks new ground in many ways. The voice is authentic, the language simple and direct, the atmosphere intensely claustrophobic; it is rare to meet a first novel of such merit

(Sydney Morning Herald)

I'm not really given to superlatives but it became quite clear to me as this book went on that Ciarán Collins had written one of the best Irish novels of the last twenty years. I was unable to put it down and it rings in my mind even now. If the Celtic Tiger saw the Irish novel drift off into mediocrity the recession has at least thrown up this gem ... It is that rural Ireland though that gives this book its deep authenticity and allows the author to pinpoint the characteristics of small town life, of men in pubs, of sport and its adherents, of old, supposedly subsumed, hatreds with a startling and truly artful degree of accuracy ... At one level the book perfectly catches the at times near horror of being an adolescent, suggesting that it could have a fine role as a set book in secondary schools, but it also exists at many levels beyond that ... I could go on and on with the wonderful phrases this book throws up. Cruel, funny, tragic, yes all of those things but mostly a novel that deserves the highest success. I hope it finds the audience it deserves (Books Ireland)

A compelling read (Irish Examiner)

Reading The Gamal is indeed part-jigsaw, a process of piecing the various clues together, but it's a richer experience for it. Charlie holds his own against any precocious child narrator, and Collins' brave decision to end his novel with questions left unanswered is brilliantly confident. Genuinely heartbreaking in parts, The Gamal is a gritty, modern Romeo and Juliet told by a compelling and original voice (Independent)

Book Description

Skippy Dies meets The Butcher Boy in a wickedly funny and heartbreaking modern-day Romeo and Juliet

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving Acount of a Man Named Charlie. 3 May 2013
By ACB (swansea) TOP 50 REVIEWER
The narrator Charlie is the 'gamal', ( shortened from the Irish 'gamalog', meaning simpleton) of the story. Crazy is the generic term for him. Oppositional Defiant Disorder is the technical nomenclature. However he is defined, he narrates his own story with the aid of his intellect and the internet. Contrary to nature, to the point of being perverse, his lack of conformity gives him a licence to free speech with his disorder as a back-up excuse. He is not short of friends who are close to him. Sinead and James have suffered adversity. Charlie and the readers do not know the ins-and-outs of these, but Charlie is observant and is no slouch when it comes to being astutely perceptive.

Whatever is up, Charlie's psychiatrists feel his talent for assessing life around him would be therapeutically beneficial written down in book format. Ever-willing in an apostate manner, Charlie may as well be setting down his story for blind-folded readers. In similar vein his approach to his beloved music is written with a join the dots and fill in the blanks challenge. He is in an indefinable category of a controlled and deliberate looseness that annoys the establishment as his talents are clear. Throw in his abilities as an an illustrator of life whether in song or words, both in realism or the cleverness of a story-teller, Charlie is your man.

His misfit talents eventually cross singer Sinead and the ritualistic background of Protestant James. If envy or mistrust arise, Ciaron Collins is able to camouflage them, not without touches of humour. An excellent, thoughtful and entertaining novel that deserves a wide readership.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very impressive debut 25 Jun 2013
I bought this book on the recommendation of one of my students - her brother is a student of the author. I was slow to buy the book because I normally prefer fiction by foreign authors, but I'm really glad that I did.

The book is well structured, and layered in a way that little bits of the story are revealed in different ways. At times the book is laugh out loud and at other times I was in floods of tears with the tragedy unfolded. Because of the style used by the author, it feels like you are inside of the story observing what is going on, or remembering what happened.

Lots of it is very "West Cork" in terms of some of the language used and the phrasing, but very cleverly done. Coming from this area myself, I thought it was authentic and definitely know of characters who are similar to almost all of the characters in the book.

I read a lot of books, but recommend very few of them but have recommended this to lots of friends and family at this stage.

Go and read this book. Ciaran Collins is certainly an author to look out for in the future.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great read! 12 April 2013
I couldn't put this book down and I really didn't want it to end!! Collins has captured something very unique here.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This Is A Book Apart! 12 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
The Gamal by Ciaran Collins is A Book Apart!

Charlie, who is known in his local village of Ballyronan as The Gamal, is considered by everyone to be not quite there. Not the full shilling. He has decided very early in life that there is no reason for him to do anything that other people wish him to do. Charlie remains silent observing people. He notices the important small things that influence the bigger things.

Charlie has a sad story to tell and with the help of his psychiatrist, Dr Quinn, he is going to try to write down what has transpired and explain why he is suffering from An Dubh (The Blackness, depression).

‘Sorrows notice me”

He is treated like a village idiot and in his school his teachers decide he is slow and have no expectations of him at all. They are happy to let Charlie sit at the back of the class drawing. But Charlie is listening and watching.

Some teachers are cruel and calculating towards him and it is a moment of scholastic segregation that leads to Sinead sticking up for him and befriending him.

Sinead comes from a troubled home herself and she too is different amongst her peers.

James arrives to the small village and he is welcomed with open arms of embrace shielding daggers of debilitating bag stabbing .His family, the Kents, have an unfavourable history with the locals due to callous acts carried out in the time of the famine.

Similar to Charlie and Sinead, James is ostracised in a very cunning and cruel fashion by the local bullies. Inevitably the three characters form a strong bond of friendship. Charlie refers to Sinead as;

‘More-ish. In the same way people find me less-
Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars A different and intriguing read 2 Mar 2014
By Sue
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a great first novel that develops slowly but keeps you enthralled and I couldn't put it down. It paints a realistic picture of life in an Irish village and contains some great characterisation. It made me laugh and cry and although I knew where the story was going I still wanted to find out how it got there - and when it did get there it left me pondering................ I shall certainly look out for any further books by this author.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! 24 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Despite the unusual writing style which would not suit everybody....I thought this was a great study of both difference and adolescence.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Gamal
Insight into mind of Charlie is amazing. Description of the bullying that happens ( now and in the past ) is very apt and descriptive. Also many happy 'pictures' of the three. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Macca
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling, Emotional and Unforgettable
The Gamal is an emotional roller-coaster from cover to cover. Collins (shortlisted for Irish Time Newcomer of the Year) captures the life of modern rural Ireland amazingly and... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Gavin O Driscoll
5.0 out of 5 stars Grt Book
As usual great speedy delivery, great read, would highly recommend to any interested reader, good price also! Shall look out for other books by Ciaran Collins!
Published 10 months ago by F Scallon Farrell
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't recommend highly enough
Slow start, in fact very slow start, but then ..... It just takes off (after at least 100 pages) and you are hooked and you can't stop reading because you want to find out what... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Blank
4.0 out of 5 stars "You'd think ancient history is ancient history. It isn't. Not in...
Charlie McCarthy, who is twenty-five as the book begins, is writing about events which occurred five years ago in Ballyronan, outside of Cork, events so traumatic for him that he... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mary Whipple
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a great read
The Gamal had many twists and turns very very confusing in places. It took me to get 50% through the book before it captured my imagination but the ending unfortunately lost and... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Kate
4.0 out of 5 stars Totally enjoyable read.
Refreshingly different book. It's not my usual style, but I am very glad I bought it. I look forward to reading more from Ciarán Collins.
Published 14 months ago by Subtitle
5.0 out of 5 stars Just the funniest most beautiful book ever, that's all.
I read this book a couple of months ago and it has stayed with me. At points I was blown away by the skill of this writer, had to put the book down and stay very still thinking... Read more
Published 15 months ago by E. R. Wyld
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