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Cal Paperback – 7 May 1998
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"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)
A haunting love story set against the grim backdrop of fear and violence in Northern Ireland.See all Product description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.)
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.
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.
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"
I suspect like many others I was jaundiced at reading/hearing so much about the troubles in Northern Ireland while they were at their worst and I thought I couldn't read anything new about them. I suspect my feelings were mostly because of frustration that I was impotent to do anything about the problems as the politicians also seemed to be at the time. I didn't think that any book which covers the subject could be so totally absorbing. This book cleverly shows that people living in Northern Ireland probably didn't have choices. They pretty well had to go along with one side or the other. Sitting on the fence would have been a very dangerous place to be.
Bernard McLafferty has written a tour de force in this book in so many ways. It's an extraordinarly gripping read telling the story of a lad who didn't want to get sucked in. Poignant. This was required reading for a course and I am so glad it was.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Cal is the story of a young man caught between the two sides in the long conflict between the IRA and the British in the control of Ulster. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Paul Robinson
Good notes on language and characters. Has useful study activities.Published 21 months ago by linda christie
Needed for a college project and was a great read. Passed my exam with it so highly recommendPublished on 9 Feb. 2015 by Kieran
A brilliant book. Bought it after reading an extract in a creative writing workbook. It shows a lot of the confusion and problems of wrestling with loyalty in the times of the... Read morePublished on 12 Nov. 2014 by Griff1970
MacLaverty has managed to write a moving love story about a guy who gets embroiled with terrorism – quite a mean feat -- but he pulls it off with great aplomb.Published on 16 Oct. 2014 by Uncle Barbar