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Cal

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  1,346 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
When it was first published, Bernard MacLaverty's fiction masterpiece was hailed by Michael Gorra in the New York Times Book Review as "a marvel of technical perfection. . . . Cal is a most moving novel whose emotional impact is grounded in a complete avoidance of sentimentality. . . . [It] will become the Passage to India of the Troubles."


For Cal, a Belfast teenager who,
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Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 17th 1995 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1983)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jay Gertzman
May 24, 2015 Jay Gertzman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bernard Mac Laverty’s Cal is one of the best anti-war novels I have read. It is about a civil war, the Catholics fighting for freedom from British rule (Nationalists) vs. the Protestant Loyalists in northern Ireland, with the Brit forces policing the cities where these “troubles” are taking their toll. Americans are familiar with the fighting between friends and relatives who have chosen sides in the Union vs confederacy bloodbath. In Cal, we see how one’s own confederates are equally destructiv ...more
Jaime
Oct 02, 2009 Jaime rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, war, favorites
Tender as a bruise, is this book.
Padraic
May 23, 2008 Padraic rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland
Romeo O'Juliet meets Maggie Mae. A thoroughly depressing book from a thoroughly depressing time. An awesome writer.
Greta
Jun 02, 2016 Greta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Life ain't easy if you coming of age in N. Ireland during the years the constant conflict between the IRA & Loyalists. Tough times, tough choices and tough consequences for mistakes made.
Matt
Nov 16, 2011 Matt rated it really liked it

Fine, fine novel about the Troubles in the mid 60's. The blurbs call it a classic, the "Passage To India" of the era and though I don't unfortunately know the Forester book very well, it's easy to see why.

Cal McClusky is a teenager on the dole, the only son of an abbatoir man who is in the midst of some serious turmoil- physical (puberty), political (he's the only son of a widowed father who is stubbornly staying in a hostile Ulster neighborhood, a bitter Roman Catholic among aggressive Protesta
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Ape
Sep 11, 2014 Ape rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Glen
May 13, 2016 Glen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will be visiting Northern Ireland for the first time in a few months with my wife and this novel came highly recommended for its ability to communicate a lot about the Troubles with humanity and brevity. The story is spare but not shallow by any means, and the protagonist is sympathetic and emblematic of what existentialists refer to as the "thrownness" of the human condition. Cal is in the midst of a situation in which no choice is especially attractive, and no matter what he does he will dis ...more
Stephen McQuiggan
Cal's in love with the honey who works in the library. Cal has a problem. Cal drove the car for the gunman who murdered the honey's husband. A truly moving novel, set against a depressing backdrop I'm unfortunately all too familiar with, filled with genuinely poignant lyrical touches. It's the innocence of it all - even amid the abattoirs and senseless slayings - that really hits home; Cal's need to be forgiven or punished beyond redemption. One of the best books about the Troubles I've read.
Beth
Oct 16, 2008 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is certainly an emotional undertaking. I read it for a Northern Ireland class, and I just flew through it. It's one of the best insights I've ever had into the possible mindset of an IRA member who doesn't quite have the stomach for it, but gets lost and tangled in everything he's done and everything he wishes he could do.
Joey
Apr 28, 2013 Joey rated it it was amazing
This novel poignantly addresses the complexity of being caught in cultural hubris. Cal's struggle is one that preexisted him... one that will outlive him.
This one made me cry, and I don't do that often.

P.S. If you gave this novel anything less than five stars, ask yourself: Do I have a heart? Just kidding... kind of.
Ariel
Mar 23, 2009 Ariel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although I liked the writing style, I felt this book was a sad tale of a man who's life was going nowhere. His guilt was all that he lived for. MacLaverty is a good writer, that's not the issue. The issues is that the book was nothing more than a sad story.
Personal opinion, I guess.
Gerry
Jan 26, 2008 Gerry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really wonderful story about an Irish Catholic, Cal, living in Belfast in the 70's. Cal becomes involved in a murder and falls in love with the wife of the man murdered. MacLaverty has really spun a fine tale here.
Lynn
Feb 14, 2015 Lynn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melissa
Feb 26, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, irish
This is a powerful book about being caught between two worlds: the Catholic IRA of the 1980's and the Protestants of Northern Ireland. It is a mighty book, right through to the last page.
Melanie - iHeartFantasy
Feb 13, 2013 Melanie - iHeartFantasy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
Actual grade: 0

With no plot and bad insta-love, Cal was the most boring and meaningless book I've ever read.
Thaliane
May 31, 2011 Thaliane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
It misses true suspense and action.
Ben
Jul 23, 2010 Ben rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Was made read it in school.
Phils Osophie
Schullektüre... Unglaublich nervig. Werde ich irgendwann mal unvoreingenommen bewerten müssen.
Stephenson Holt
First published in 1983 this novel, set in Northern Ireland, outside Belfast, is almost historical. Taking place during 'the troubles' and before the 'peace process' this is the story of Cal a nineteen year old unemployed youth, unemployed because he couldn't stomach the job his father acquired for him in the local abattoir. Cal and his father are the last Catholic family on a Protestant housing estate and are being victimized. Without condoning the violence, the reader begins to understand how ...more
Cphe
Nov 19, 2016 Cphe rated it liked it
A bleak portrait of a young Catholic man, Cal living with his father in a Protestant Housing Development in Northern Ireland. Cal's life is one of poverty, living on the dole and going nowhere fast. Cal is involved on the fringes of the IRA but an act of violence wants him away from the conflict.

Well written but short novel of the conflict, how the ties that bind you to an area, people are difficult near impossible to walk away from. A short novel that ends abruptly but is confronting. Well wort
...more
Morrigan Coady
Nov 28, 2016 Morrigan Coady rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school-books
Really enjoyed this even though it isn't the kind of thing I would normally read. Pretty dark, but definitely interesting. Definitely a great little book.
Leah
Jul 03, 2015 Leah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A book so bad - I threw it in the trash bin afterwards.

I had various problems with this book.
The topic, the Northern Irleand Conflict/ The Troubles, was interesting and catchy. Unfortunately, MacLaverty did not suceeded in making the topic interesting or exciting. His language was dull and boring, he often used unnecessary descriptions which just read more boring and put the reader to sleep. His description just weren't convincing and sometimes even gross and tasteless.

The characters were just a
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Diane
Dec 24, 2016 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-reads
Cal McCrystal and his father, Shamie, are Catholics living in a predominantly protestant area of Ulster, Northern Ireland. They suffer from the prejudices and attacks on Catholic families that are common during this time period in Northern Ireland. Cal is quiet, gentle and introspective. So, when Cal's friend from school, Crilly, enlists him to do some driving for him as an IRA gunman, he agrees with the understanding that he's only to drive the car. He is not to be involved in any other way.

Cal
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Tate Quinton
Somewhat disappointing. Too slow; not enough bloodshed. It needed someone crucified (nailed to a cement floor) like in the "Long Good Friday":) Which, by the way was a cool scene (it's one of my favorite movies) but if you don't want someone to talk you should make sure that they are dead before they are found. As ethnic Irish Catholic I've been fascinated by the Troubles for as long as a can remember (I was born in 1962) and lately I have been on a Troubles novel reading and movie watching jag. ...more
Clive Thompson
Jul 13, 2013 Clive Thompson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First published in 1983 this novel, set in Northern Ireland, outside Belfast, is almost historical. Taking place during 'the troubles' and before the 'peace process' this is the story of Cal a nineteen year old unemployed youth, unemployed because he couldn't stomach the job his father got him in the local abbatoir. Cal and his father are the last Catholic family on a Protestant housing estate and are being victimised. Without condoning the violence, the reader begins to understand how a person ...more
Allan
Jul 02, 2014 Allan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second novel I've read by McLaverty, having already enjoyed his semi autobiographical 'The Anatomy School'.

Set in a small town close to Magherafelt, it follows the life of unemployed Catholic 19 year old Cal, who lives as the last of his 'kind' in a Protestant housing estate with his father, Shamie, an abattoir worker. From early in the novel, it becomes clear that Cal is involved on the fringes of the IRA but wants out, which isn't so easy, given the pressures put on him by ex scho
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Amélie Brouillard
Though the story sounded intriguing, I can't fully remember the whole plot, only the feeling after I was done reading it, that it was not worth it and that I don't need to keep the book (I found it in a "free to take" box).
It was kinda interesting to learn about some of the things going on in Ireland. But then Cal really cannot make up his mind. He doesn't want to, but still participates. I guess since he had helped before and lived there, it was tough quitting, but he didn't draw the line and
...more
Konstantin
Aug 03, 2016 Konstantin rated it really liked it
Shelves: j-adore
[rating = B]
The book instantly takes the reader into the world of Irish troubles. Cal is a Catholic living in a Protestant neighborhood. The reader soon finds out that Cal's past isn't so innocent. Crilly and Skeffington act as a kind of foil to Cal's determination to stay away from the conflict. "Is your not a part of the solution, your part of the problem," this phrase seems to ring true, that there are no neutrals. But Cal just wants to be alive, to dream about a widow who's husband was kille
...more
Sadhbh
Apr 03, 2012 Sadhbh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was SO well written. The pace i found a bit slow at the start, but as you got into it more the choices Cal has to make are devastating and it really gives you insight into the fact that things are never as cold, simple and objective as they seem to be, especially in the case of conflict, and especially in the case of this conflict.

Slow, matter of fact, tragic, gorgeous and painful. Something about the tone and and descriptions were just so understated, but you understand that the text
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A. Mary
May 18, 2012 A. Mary rated it liked it
Shelves: irish-novels
Cal is a young Catholic living in a Belfast neighbourhood where all the Catholics have been driven out. He and his father have been threatened and refuse to go. A young Catholic in Belfast, in the Troubles, is probably on the dole, and Cal is a republican, but he has no interest in being part of the IRA. That doesn't stop the IRA from having an interest in him, and he gets drawn into some actions which irrevocably change his life. This story is simply told, and the plot is a plausible one. Cal i ...more
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Bernard MacLaverty was born in Belfast (14.9.42) and lived there until 1975 when he moved to Scotland with his wife, Madeline, and four children. He has been a Medical Laboratory Technician, a mature student, a teacher of English and, for two years in the mid eighties, Writer-in-Residence at the University of Aberdeen.

After living for a time in Edinburgh and the Isle of Islay he now lives in Glasg
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