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Cal: A Novel Paperback – April 17, 1995
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Top Customer Reviews
"Cal" describes the "troubles" in Northern Ireland in a simple yet elegant manner, with a bare minimum of explicit violence and gore. Most of the violence is implied - the two exceptions being the story of how Marcella Morton became a widow, and what at first glance seems to be a rather pointless episode concerning a land mine and a cow. It seemed pointless, that is, until you read further and discovered exactly how the land mine came to be there.
While the violence is at a minimum, the thoughts, feelings, and philosophies of each side are explored quite thoroughly for such a small book. And while I personally found both points of view quite repellent, I will say that I believed that the characters in this book had these beliefs, and that they were extremely passionate regarding them.
The book is also an interesting psychological study, at least as far as Cal McCluskey (the main character) is concerned. With the help of Marcella, the woman he comes to love, it seems that he is growing up, and coming to realize that there's a lot more out in the world than just Catholics & Protestants fighting and killing each other - but his past will ultimately work against him and nullify all the good that Marcella has done for him - because he was the driver of the car containing the man that killed her husband.
A touching, sad, and very important book.
Cal and his father have experienced ongoing harassment as the only two Catholics living in their neighborhood and they are eventually bombed out of their home. Bereft of his few possessions and alienated from his mates, Cal finds work in the country and embarks on an obsessive affair with a young widow whose husband he helped to kill. The affair with the lonely widow further plays on Cal's guilt so that when the final climax is reached, well, you'll find out!
I was moved by Cal's dilemma. MacLaverty is good at conveying the poverty and desperation of his circumstances. Cal lost his mother as a child. He and his da are barely scraping by. He hasn't felt safe at night or had a good night's sleep in years because of all the threats and violence in his neighborhood. At 19, he's a seriously burned out kid. I was more troubled by his stalking of the widow. Men finding expiation for their misdeeds by having sex with the women they've victimized and calling it love has become a common trope of a lot of tough guy writing. Chuck Hogan's Prince of Thieves: A Novel (made into the Ben Affleck film "The Town") comes to mind. It is apparently a common male fantasy.Read more ›
Cal is an unemployed young man who has very tenuous ties to the IRA. He begins to fall for the widow of one of his group's victims as he tries to break free from the IRA's clutches. All the while he is forced to bear the prejudices of his Protestant neighbors.
MacLaverty skillfully writes the tale. He never fools you about how the story will end but none the less he manages to make the reader invest some emotion in Cal so that when the inevitable comes you are just wiped out.
This is a wonderful piece of modern Irish literature.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Had to read it for Literature class but it was a great book with terrific insight to the TroublesPublished 4 months ago by Sara
"Cal" is a desperately sad book. If you grew up as young man in Belfast during "The Troubles" there was very little chance that you could escape being drawn into... Read morePublished 9 months ago by keetmom
I was really enjoying this book and not paying any attention to how much % I had read (I had the Kindle edition) and then suddenly, it was done. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Tangerine
I believe that to enjoy this book you would benefit by having some knowledge of "The Troubles" in Ireland during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Curtis Wells
A great read. Excellent if you want to be in Ireland during the "troubles". The plot has IRA, British army, Orangemen and romance all tied together. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Hotmann
Belfast author Bernard MacLaverty's CAL is a page turner, that's for sure. I liked this little novel about the continuing "Troubles" in Northern Ireland very much, except maybe for... Read morePublished on August 20, 2013 by Timothy J. Bazzett
A heartrending account of a young man's impossible choices. Meditates on the line between guilt and innocence, then explodes it.Published on December 2, 2012 by Amazon Customer