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Cal Paperback – 7 May 1998

4.0 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (7 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099767112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099767114
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 0.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 130,331 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)

Book Description

A haunting love story set against the grim backdrop of fear and violence in Northern Ireland.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Enjoyed book but bewildered by ending. Also didn't realise it was such a short book. Fairly good storyline., no happy ending. 😢
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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
This is just the most amazing book.
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.
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