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Clara Callan

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,684 Ratings  ·  243 Reviews
In a small town in Canada, Clara Callan reluctantly takes leave of her sister, Nora, who is bound for New York. It's a time when the growing threat of fascism in Europe is a constant worry, and people escape from reality through radio and the movies. Meanwhile, the two sisters -- vastly different in personality, yet inextricably linked by a shared past -- try to find their ...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 2001)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Glenn Sumi
One of the best Canadian novels of the millennium (so far!)

When it was published in 2001, Clara Callan swept Canada’s book awards, including the Governor General’s Award and the Giller Prize (a feat I don’t think has been duplicated). No wonder. This novel is that rare thing: a literary page-turner.

It tells the story of two Canadian sisters living vastly different lives in the mid-1930s: the eponymous, 30-something Clara is a schoolteacher in a small Ontario town (about two hours from Toronto),
...more
Iris  Pereyra

Clara Callan

Great story-telling and characters, love the historical background and the strong but complicated female characters.
Couldn't stop listening to this audiobook and the journal entries/epistolary structured works very well in audio.

Highly recommend it if you are looking a well written historical fiction that's also a page-turner.
Bonnie
Jan 11, 2009 Bonnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommended
Originally borrowed from the library. Loved the book so much, I bought my own copy. I'm not alone: it won 5 prizes, two of which were the GG's Award for Fiction & the Giller Prize.
Friederike Knabe
Mar 28, 2014 Friederike Knabe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-lit
Clara Callan, the protagonist of Wright's novel, is a small town spinster in the 1930s. She lives a reasonably comfortable life thanks to the inheritance of her father's house and a job as a local schoolteacher. Through her diary entries and exchanges of letters, mainly with her more glamorous younger sister Nora, Clara reveals herself to the reader. Wright has created a believable character that "grows on you" as her personality emerges little by little. Life's difficulties during the Depressio ...more
Shélah
FYI: This edition of the book actually has over 400 pages, Goodreads.

I didn’t feel this was a strong novel. I wanted to like it (truly), but I just couldn’t care. The characters were largely underdeveloped on the page, and the forward motion was jumpy and jarring. The set-up was also poor with no real conflict until 50 pages in. Additionally, people raving over Wright’s ability to write women well is exaggerated: any man can write women just as any woman can write men, and there was nothing asto
...more
Melee
Jan 20, 2012 Melee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: epistolary
As I mentioned, I had mixed feelings about this one... The beginning was great; I was enchanted! Clara Callan, the main character, was a poetess and I quite identified with her and the way she viewed life. I was delighted with the letters sent between the two sisters and I liked the contrast of the two voices: the reserved, pensive voice of Clara and the more exuberant one of Nora.

Actually, I spent almost the whole book thinking I really liked Clara and Nora, but by the end I realized my feeling
...more
Roisin
Jan 15, 2008 Roisin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I did enjoy this book. It was an easy, page turner that really didn't need any thinking about. Yet another book that I would never have picked up myself but was sent as a present.
However I really struggle to see what the author was trying to convey in the novel. In many ways it seems haphazard and completely lacking in direction. There is no build up and not really even a proper ending. I can see how this [and seemingly mundane details such as details of trips to the dentist] makes it all the mo
...more
Marlee Pinsker
May 09, 2011 Marlee Pinsker rated it it was amazing
My library copy of Clara Callan came with the wavy pages of water damage and the cracked spine of heavy usage. While I read the book I felt I was sharing the experience with the people who had read it before me.

Since there are many summaries of the book already written I will skip going over the details and just say this:

A woman is raped, and that experience implies hurt, long lasting damage, and cries out for redress in some way. A pregnancy results. I was sad for her and quite anxious that she
...more
Allegra Young
Jan 06, 2012 Allegra Young rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: can-lit, canada-reads
"Clara Callan" by Richard B. Wright was a fantastic read for my recent trip to Whitehorse. I had been dying for some uninterrupted reading time for a while now, and it was the perfect length, (415 pages), to fly me to Vancouver, distract me through my 3 hour layover, then fly me to Whitehorse. No - I wasn't finished when I got there, but I was close, and that's because this Giller prize winner is hard to predict.



(I included the cover above that I wish I had for my book. Mine was unfortunately mo
...more
Jane
Nov 26, 2011 Jane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Two decals on the cover, one for being a 2001 Giller Prize winner, and the other, for a Canada Council Governor General Award, I was certain this would be a book worth reading.

I am not sure what it takes to get a Giller Prize. Was it how the author dropped many Canadiana details into the story? Was it just a creative way to write a book, including only journal entries and letters?

It's not really a pleasant read, many difficult parts, so I began to think there would be a fantastic twist at the e
...more
Megan Baxter
May 19, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed this book. It mixes diary entries with letters in a hybrid epistolary novel, but does it very well. I complained because Jo Walton's Among Other was in a diary format but didn't use it as well as I would have liked. This is how to do it well. There is a narrative here, related by Clara to her sister, Nora, her friend, Evelyn, or, much of it, to herself alone. And it is compelling.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enfor
...more
Sara Steger
Jun 30, 2015 Sara Steger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much of this book is epistemological, but so well done that it adds to the flow and personality of the book. Both Clara and Nora are well drawn and believable and even though Clara react quite differently to the situations she finds herself in than I would think normal, we are given enough of her unique character to find the reactions consistent with who she is.

I didn't want to put this down until I reached the end. I was rooting for Clara all the way. Nothing pleases more than characters about
...more
Julie
This was a book I couldn't put down while I was reading it, and it was one of those books, which once it ended, I was sad to see it end.

It was hard to find a fault with the book, and I'm not exactly sure what pulled me into it either, but whatever it was, I was transfixed by it. I loved how it was written by a collection of letters between the sisters and journal entries from Clara. I think it helped me enjoy Clara's character so much was being able to get into her head by her journal entries. S
...more
Louise
Apr 06, 2009 Louise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Clara, a quiet woman, lives in the house she inherited from her father. A spinster school teacher who remains in her town of Whitfield. Her younger sister Nora sets off for New York to advance her career in radio.

For four years (1934-1938) Clara and Nora write letters to each other. For Clara, life is difficult being a single woman during the Depression and things are not easy. Clara has a very personal and dramatic incident which forces her to confront her new circumstances in a very direct man
...more
Jenny
May 04, 2008 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I stumbled upon this book on a table of "prize winning novels" in the Princeton NJ public library. It had won several prestigious Canadian prizes for fiction. It's the story of two sisters in the 1930s. Clara, the central character, and older sister lives and teaches school in a small Ontario town. Her younger sister has moved to NYC, where she's a successful radio star. The story is told through letters that they exchange over the years and through letters between Clara and Evelyn, one of Nora' ...more
Hilary G
Ex Bookworm group review:

I'm not sure whether I liked Clara Callan or not.

I quite like the episolatory novel - 84 Charing Cross Road is a great favourite from my soppy adolescence, and I have fond memories of Humphrey Clinker by Tobias Smollett, which I studied in school. I don't suppose you
could do it now, really, as all those exchanges would probably be done over the phone, hence Clara's objection to getting a phone? It would have made Richard B Wright's job a lot harder! I can't say I found t
...more
Renee Boucher
I have been wanting to read this book for the past 10 years now. When my first child was a baby I would walk in the afternoons and listen to a CBC program that read this story. I didn't hear the whole story at the time but enough to keep me interrested. When it was over I made a mental note to pick up the book and read it....and here we are 10 years later. It was good, slow to begin, but once the story picked up I was engaged and wanted to keep up with the characters to find out what happens. No ...more
Henrietta
Jul 29, 2012 Henrietta marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
In a small town in Canada, Clara Callan reluctantly takes leave of her sister, Nora, who is bound for New York. It's a time when the growing threat of fascism in Europe is a constant worry, and people escape from reality through radio and the movies. Meanwhile, the two sisters -- vastly different in personality, yet inextricably linked by a shared past -- try to find their places within the complex web of social expectations for young women in the 1930s.

While Nora embarks on a glamorous career a
...more
Laurie Gough
Apr 11, 2016 Laurie Gough rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I loved this book from the very first page onwards. I identified with the main character and found her to be so real and well-developed she seemed like an actual person I'd want to know. It was also a fascinating glimpse into the 1930s in small town Canada and New York City. The other characters, the hilariously cynical and witty lesbian radio scriptwriter Evelyn is unforgettable, as is the pompous narcissistic author Lewis Mills. I felt lost when this book ended, so engrossed I was with these p ...more
Talie
Mar 12, 2016 Talie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is made up of correspondence between three very strong women in the 30s. I absolutely fell in love with Evelyn (she reminds me of the costume designer Jenny Beavan). There are references to so many great books in the letters between Clara and Evelyn I wish I'd taken better notes.
Ingrid
Apr 20, 2015 Ingrid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
COPIED FROM FREDERICKE's REVIEW .... PERFECT SYNOPSIS ... Clara Callan, the protagonist of Wright's novel, is a small town spinster in the 1930s. She lives a reasonably comfortable life thanks to the inheritance of her father's house and a job as a local schoolteacher. Through her diary entries and exchanges of letters, mainly with her more glamorous younger sister Nora, Clara reveals herself to the reader. Wright has created a believable character that "grows on you" as her personality emerges ...more
Violette Stepaniuk
Clara Callan started so promising. Two unmarried sisters from a small Ontario town pursue independent lives in the 1930s. Clara, a respected school teacher, in her early thirties, suddenly discovers she no longer believes in God and tests the expectations of her traditional community. Nora, the younger of the two, heads for New York to pursue a glamorous career as a radio actress. Through their letters and journal entries, we follow their very different lives.

I loved the first half of the book,
...more
Read Between the Pages
The 1930s. What isn’t interesting about that time? The scandals that were juicy back then are merely everyday things now. Hooking up with married men, vulgar language, getting pregnant out of wedlock. Wowie wow wow! I can have a conversation with anymore and I’m sure they know someone whose done these things. And it isn’t a big deal. But back in the 30’s, who would even want to shame themselves like that?

This book was slow and boring at some point, but by the middle of it it started to pick up.
...more
LizG
Nov 19, 2008 LizG rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the snapshot into the day-to-day life and attitudes of the era. The characters were a bit weak and the lack of depth of emotion that the main character showed in light of a significant life event (I don't want to spoil the story) tipped me off that the author was male. I hadn't noticed initially, but that was a dead give away.
Ryan
Feb 11, 2014 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure why it bothered me at first that this was written by a dude, but I eventually came to terms about it. If I could verbalize my initial apprehension then it might fall in the realm of resentment. Resentment along the lines that popular opinion is that men can never really understand women, and yet here is this author quite successfully turning that theory into shit. So where does that leave me in my world? My competitive side baulks at the notion suggested by this reversal of popular ...more
Patricia Post
Apr 18, 2016 Patricia Post rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clara Callan tells the story of two sisters raised in a small Ontario town by their late, beloved father. Although very different in temperament and lifestyle, Clara and Nora share a close bond, as their lives unfold, from pre-war years in the 1930s, into the 21st century.

One sister follows her bliss, while the other conforms to dutiful expectations, and yet both prove to be avant-garde in their own ways.

The story is told from Clara's point of view, but expanded through the sisters' letters to
...more
Jill
Mar 16, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clara Callan, the protagonist of the story, is a lot like me. Of course, many of the hardships that she had went through are completely foreign to me, but Clara enjoys poetry, music, and the finer things in life. She writes beautiful, but scary poetry, and often burns her drafts. I usually just throw mine in the trash. She plays piano wonderfully, which is something I would love to do one day. She is quite old-fashioned (proof of that would be her blatant refusal to install a telephone) and she ...more
Karen Hogan
Dec 30, 2012 Karen Hogan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I know this won so many awards, but it didnt compel me enough to keep reading it. If a book doesnt capture me in the first 50 pages, I give it up. Because my mantra is " So many books, so little time".
Sandra Hinds
Enjoyable read about life in the 30's in Whitfield, Ontario. Clara Callan teaches at the same school she attended years ago. Her sister Nora is a radio actress who moves to New York to find her career and fortunes, Their story, particularly Clara's is told through a series of letters between the sisters, Nora's friend Evelyn and Clara's diary. Clara has a hard life and is faced with unfortunate incidences and some very bad decisions, but in the end she decides what is right for her and she doesn ...more
Tamara Bennett
Jun 22, 2016 Tamara Bennett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
great story. loved the concept of nothing but letters between sisters & a friend, along w/ journal entries of clara, the main character. loved that it felt so real due to passing observations of world events - had to check whether clara really existed. :(
clara showed her previously hidden & subtle strength through some difficult personal events that ended up being rather life-changing. satisfying but sad ending. which made it feel even more realistic - instead of the pretty, 'tied w/ a
...more
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Richard B. Wright is a Canadian novelist.

Born in Midland, Ontario, Wright attended Trent University, from which he graduated in 1970. He is the author of 13 published novels and two children's books. Many of his older novels were out of print, but were republished after his novel Clara Callan won three of Canada's major literary awards in 2001: the Giller Prize; the Trillium Book Award; and the Go
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“I want so badly to help you realize, Elizabeth Anne, how difficult and puzzling and full of wonder it all is: some day I will tell you how I learned to watch the shifting light of autumn days or smelled the earth through snow in March; how one winter morning God vanished from my life and how one summer evening I sat in a Ferris wheel, looking down on a man that hurt me badly; I will tell you how I once travelled to Rome and saw all the soldiers in that city of dead poets; I will tell you how I met your father outside a movie house in Toronto, and how you came to be. Perhaps that is where I will begin. On a winter afternoon when we turn the lights on early, or perhaps a summer day of leaves and sky, I will begin by conjugating the elemental verb. I am. You are. It is.” 5 likes
“if I can’t write poetry, at least perhaps I can try to think and feel like a poet.” 0 likes
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