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Description - Cal by Bernard MacLaverty

For Cal, some of the choices are devastatingly simple...He can work in an abattoir that nauseates him or join the dole queue; he can brood on his past or plan a future with Marcella. Springing out of the fear and violence of Ulster, Cal is a haunting love story in a land were tenderness and innocence can only flicker briefly in the dark.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099767114
ISBN-10: 0099767112
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 9mm)
Pages: 176
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 7-May-1998
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Cal by Bernard MacLaverty

UK Kirkus Review » Any aspiring novelist knows there are certain subjects which a publisher is loathe to take on. This is the story of a young man Cal, who is caught up in the troubles of 1970s Ulster. Although he is involved in acts of violence, Cal is shown to be just as much a victim as others. Like many of his contemporaries, he suffers through lack of opportunities. The only job that comes up is in an abattoir, and he just doesn't have the stomach for it. There is much to be learned from this book, such as how strong religious convictions can tear apart a community. Those who are prepared to accept people for what they are often suffer for their complacency. Cal and his widowed father, Shamie, are the only Catholic family left on their estate. They live in constant fear. Then Cal meets the lovely Marcella and his life takes an even more complicated turn. Marcella has been widowed through an act of violence. Against this backdrop of unrest evolves a tender love story, which helps to dissipate the sheer hopelessness of their lives. A novel from the author of Grace Notes, shortlisted for the 1997 Booker Prize, which resonates and stays with the reader long after reading the final chapter. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » MacLaverty (Lamb) accomplishes this short novel with a shudder-soft grace and inevitability; little here feels forced or elongated, though the story itself is almost banal in bare outline. Cal McCrystal is a young unemployed Ulster Catholic (he could work at the abbatoir with his father Shamie, but he can't stand the sights and smells); as the only Catholics left on their street, he and Shamie are subjected to threats and, eventually, arson. Yet Cal is no rabid IRA-er - despite his having been coerced by them into a terrible deed: acting as the driver on a murder run that assassinated a Protestant reserve policeman. It's Cal's fate, in fact, to be repeatedly roped into situations he doesn't really want to be in. And the central plot here involves Cal's love from afar for a local librarian, Marcella, who turns out to be. . . the widow of the policeman whom Cal helped destroy. Improbable? Certainly. But MacLaverty is stalwart and light-touched enough to follow it through, to convince us of Cal's love and guilt. Furthermore, when Marcella finally responds to Cal (who has aroused IRA suspicions by his silence and goes to dangerous lengths to be near Marcella), there is a taut wire strung between them: Marcella's need for comfort, her unawareness of his sin; his horror of blurting out one day what he's done. And MacLaverty is especially good at the small, dry-mouthed details of Cal's infatuation, which build minutely - with an added interesting angle of characterization: Cal turns out to be a wittier, more urbane lover than we'd expect, as though freed by love from circumstance. A brief, slightly unbelievable book - nonetheless made rich, affecting, and tangible by the quiet determination of its characters. . . and its storytelling. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Bernard MacLaverty

Bernard MacLaverty lives in Glasgow. He has written five collections of stories and four novels, including Grace Notes which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award. His most recent story collection, Matters of Life and Death & Other Stories, was published in 2006. He has written versions of his fiction for other media - radio plays, television plays, screenplays - and wrote and directed the short film Bye Child which won a BAFTA award.

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