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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (July 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608198758
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608198757
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #900,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Ballyronan, young Charlie McCarthy is called “the gamal,” Irish for (roughly) village idiot. But Charlie is no dummy, and it’s he who tells, in his sometimes idiosyncratic voice, the sad, sad story of what happens to his best friends, James and Sinead. Who else will tell it, Charlie demands, “cos no one else knows.” Inseparable since childhood, James and Sinead become lovers, bound together by their passionate desire for listening to and making music. The sound of music is also Charlie’s entrée into their company, where, despite his challenges, he becomes their best friend. And later, when their relationship and lives begin to unravel, Charlie is prepared to do anything to help them, especially Sinead, who owns his heart completely. There are echoes of Romeo and Juliet in this story of star-crossed lovers. There is also Charlie’s closely observed account of life in an Irish village, with all its pettiness and cruelty, especially to those who are in any way outsiders. 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. --Michael Cart

Review

“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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Customer Reviews

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I liked that the book was very easy reading.
vdwilliams
I want you to know that you will be reading 80 pages before finally getting to chapter 1.
C. E. Selby
Clever in some ways, but in others felt like time was wasted on it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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 is still being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And that's on top of his problems as a "Gamal," short for Gamallogue, an Irish word for someone who is "different" - not someone who is developmentally limited in the usual sense but someone, like Charlie, who seems to do everything wrong socially. The reader knows from the opening paragraph that Charlie's trauma involves two lovers, his friends Sinead and James, and his early descriptions of Sinead in the past tense lets us know from the outset that she has died. We know nothing else, however, nor do we know much about James, at that point, except that he and Sinead were Charlie's only friends in a school atmosphere in which bullying was common.

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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joeyoeo on October 14, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This read engages the reader from the start and does not disappoint. The only let down you feel is that when you have closed the back cover you don't have the author's next read at your fingertips. I felt like I was in Ireland and a fly on the wall in every chapter.
it's been along time since a read engaged me like that. If you have not read this book you are missing out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. E. Selby on September 14, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Charlie, "the Gamal," is a 25-year-old patient of Dr. Quinn, a psychiatrist, who has given "the Gamal" an assignment of writing what he experienced, to maybe write it in the form of a novel. The only problem is that "the Gamal" really doesn't know how a novel is written, how it goes together. So when the reader begins this "novel," it could be a bit confusing since essentially the patient is writing just to complete so many words of his assignment.
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The way this book was written from the point of view of the"Gamal" didn't work. The word count thing in the story where the "Gamal" was told to keep a diary and record how many words he had written by his doctor made the whole thing a chore and made reading the book tedious and a chore. The language was unimaginative and the inclusion of dictionary definitions and blank lines to allow the reader to fill in the lyrics of songs which were under copy write was just a way of padding out this book. The testimony and cross examination passages which took place in court seemed unrealistic.

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.
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By vdwilliams on March 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I liked that the book was very easy reading. A complex story, but easy to follow the many local characters. Thef author captures the flavor of the village and hits inhabitants as they live out their local-centric lives. A great mystery and a walk through the mind and thinking of a defective thinker. A surprising book. I loved it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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.
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