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The Gamal: A Novel Paperback – July 23, 2013
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“The narrator of Ciaran Collins's remarkable first novel, The Gamal, has been encouraged by a mental health professional to write his story for therapeutic purposes. Charlie McCarthy, 25, is known in the West Cork village of Ballyronan as "the gamal," short for "gamalog," a term for a fool or simpleton rarely heard beyond the Gaeltacht regions of Ireland. He is in fact a savant, a sensitive oddball whose cheeky, strange, defiant and witty monologue is as disturbing as it is dazzling… The novel's greatest gift is the playful language that celebrates the thrill and desperation of living in this small country town.” ―New York Times Book Review
“Astonishing. Inventive. Playful. Unique. A novel to savour. Ciarán Collins is the real deal” ―Colum McCann
“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
“In his first novel, Collins has done a masterful job of creating a memorable voice for his narrator and situations that are haunting in their poignancy and sadness. As characters, Sinead and James are as well crafted as Charlie himself, and all their lives and stories are unforgettable. The Gamal is an extraordinarily accomplished debut.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“A brilliant, baffling, and twisted riff on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that readers will not be able to put down.” ―Library Journal (starred review)
“A new literary star.” ―Irish Echo
“[A] remarkable debut novel… Once in a while a novel from Ireland appears that has the power to make you reassess how you think and feel about the country. This year that head turning distinction belongs to Ciaran Collins, 35, the working school teacher whose debut novel The Gamal has garnered more praise in six months that most authors hear in a lifetime…There's more than a hint of The Catcher in the Rye at work in this absorbing tale, but Collins has the skill to make you welcome the comparison. The fact is The Gamal describes Irish rural life and manners so evocatively that you'll be spellbound from the first to last page… With a writing style that at times faintly echoes Roddy Doyle's and Pat McCabe's, Collins is still very much his own man, an immensely assured writer confident of his narrative gifts and in his ability to beguile the reader, making The Gamal one of the best debuts I have read in a decade…A tragicomic awareness has shaped Collins' hilarious and terrifying new novel, the first truly accomplished work of post-collapse Ireland. In The Gamal he holds up a bright polished mirror and shows us our own faces.” ―Irish Voice
“Funny, smart, and warm, here's a voice that will catch you by surprise.” ―David Vann
“Brilliant, a sign of more inventive things to come from a writer with powerful imagination, empathy, and a cutting sense of humor… The Gamal is a riveting, sometimes terrifying, and heartbreaking look at insidious small-town jealousy and the things people do for love.” ―Irish America
“People have compared [The Gamal] to Roddy Doyle, Patrick McCabe and Paul Murray but it has an energy, a range and a confidence all of its own . . . . Astonishing . . . Collins will go on and produce a career of wonderful work.” ―Evie Wyld, Flavorwire
“A ferocious, heartbreaking confessional with a real voice.” ―Kirkus Review
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Top Customer Reviews
Charlie's "main shrink" has persuaded him to write a thousand words a day about his life, and he has agreed, reluctantly. Inserting drawings instead of bothering to describe people and places, Charlie begins his book - this book - also including passages from psychology textbooks, dictionaries, and eventually court transcripts. He leaves spaces where the reader can fill in the lyrics to his favorite songs. When he updates the reader on how many words he has written, Dr. Quinn demands he stop delaying, and he finally admits, in writing, that five years ago he was a witness in a court case in criminal court and that it lasted for four weeks. The case involved Sinead and her death. Slowly, through flashbacks, Charlie reveals information about his life and family, and Sinead's, and James's, all three from different social strata and levels of education.Read more ›
And that is what makes it both funny and fun to read.
Here's what "the Gamal" writes on pages 49 and 50: "Dr Quinn can talk and talk so it's OK going to see him really most of the time. I just agree with whatever s*** [Amazon will censor this if I write the word out!] he's saying and that keeps him from upsetting the mother and father saying to them I'm not making progress or that I didn't turn up to the appointment."
So what we have is just maybe a very unreliable narrator. Or maybe not.
The story line involves the love between Sinead and James. And their friendship with Charlie who has all types of disorders. Post Traumatic Stress. Maybe a tad bit of autism. Definitely a Personality Disorder. He suffers from migraines. But has a photographic memory which makes him no longer the unreliable narrator since he has recall of so much.
Possible reader, be aware that Charlie rambles. So you might, at times, be annoyed with the conversations he recalls verbatim. But those conversations are important. So think of yourself as a voyeur, maybe. That's what I did.
Charlie has been a disaster in school. Here is one description of one teacher whose patience with him had run dry: "Her big long nose was inches from my face and her spit was spraying on me. I knew she was best friends with Anthony Murphy's mother.Read more ›
I have never submitted an online book review before but this book prompted me to do so. Take from that what you will!!
In summary I would not recommend this book.
Charlie, the narrator and central character relays the events which took place in this small community, in particular the relationship between his two closest friends, Sinead and James. To many, Charlie is considered an innocent and something of a social outcast. ‘If someone was describing me they’d say, he’s a bit of a God help us.’ However, as becomes apparent, Charlie is not the ignorant fool many consider him to be, and sees more astutely the darkness pervading among some elements of this community, in particular the undercurrent of jealousy and malice felt for his close friends Sinead and James. Without giving away the events which unfold within the novel, there are moments of absolute tragedy, and one cannot but feel great empathy for Charlie, struggling at times with remembering and relaying these events. However, one of the great talents of Ciaran Collins is his ability to pepper such great humor throughout, with the unique voice of Charlie.
One of the greatest Irish novels, one of the greatest novels I’ve read in many years, I highly recommend it for anyone who wants something a little different but brilliant in their reading matter.
I rate this book 9 out of 10 Excellent! I almost didn't get out of the bath.
Reviewed by guest reviewer: Author Liz Brennan for Escapology Reviews
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Far too overwritten, too repetitive, with a million gimmicks to keep it going. Felt to me like it was better meant for teenagers, to give them something to keep them occupied. Read morePublished 7 months ago by A Reader
I was blown away by this novel, absolutely. Someone on the cover said this already, I couldn't agree more - this IS the real deal. Fabulous. True, tender, terrible, terrific.Published 10 months ago by trish rogers
This is one of the best novels I've ever read. The first person narration is brilliant, and all the characters deeply realized. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Catherine S. Kemelmacher
Excellent read, captures small time Irish town life incredibly.Published 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
The Gamal by Ciaran Collins is A Book Apart!
Charlie, who is known in his local village of Ballyronan as The Gamal, is... Read more
I liked that the book was very easy reading. A complex story, but easy to follow the many local characters. Read morePublished 23 months ago by vdwilliams
More people should read this book. No, it is not Great Literature, but it is well worth reading, especially if you enjoy the genre of modern British underclass fiction.Published 24 months ago by Philip E. Bowles