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A Son Called Gabriel
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A Son Called Gabriel

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  328 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Set in the hills of Northern Ireland in the 1960s
and 70s, A Son Called Gabriel is a deeply felt and often funny
coming-of-age novel that is ultimately unforgettable.
Gabriel Harkin, the eldest of four children in a working-class
family, struggles through a loving yet often brutal childhood.
It's a turbulent time in Ulster, and in the staunchly Catholic community to which G
Hardcover, 343 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by CDS Books
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Jun 09, 2010 Erastes rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gay-historical
This book struck a lot of chords for me, and I found myself reading it in one session because I simply couldn’t put it down. Being raised myself by a Catholic mother with the same values and standards as Gabriel’s mother–don’t shame the family, don’t show yourself up, don’t give in to bullies, always look nice, study hard, do better–I could empathize with everything in this story.

Gideon is a normal little boy–until he starts to worry that he isn’t. He’s about six at the start of the book and goi
I read this for my in-person reading group and like many of the others we’ve read I hadn’t heard of it before. It is set between the 1960’s and 70’s in Northern Ireland during a time of great conflict and strife between the Catholic and Protestants. This provides an interesting backdrop to Gabriel Harkin’s own troubles and internal conflicts, when he slowly discovers that he is different to other boys.

Gabriel is a sensitive and intelligent young lad who is mercilessly bullied throughout school.
Nov 06, 2011 Luka rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paul Trainor
Sep 16, 2008 Paul Trainor rated it liked it

About a third of the way through Damian McNicholl’s debut novel, his chief protagonist seems to have his prayers answered, and I did too, for it was then that the novel finally got hold of me an kept me with it to the end. The first third unfairly dallied that it would be a run-of-the-mill depressing tale of shoeless drunken Ireland a la Angela’s Ashes but patience brought good things just like the saying predicts.

Having grown up in Northern Ireland at exactly the same time as Gabriel, I found
Sep 15, 2012 Tom rated it liked it
Shelves: glbt
This novel about a gay Catholic boy growing up in a rural town in Northern Ireland during the "time of troubles" quickly captures the reader's attention. The first-person narrative, laced with Irish idiomatic expressions, is charming and cheeky during Gabriel's grade-school years. But, as he grows older, he often comes off sounding like a drama queen as he goes through typical adolescent rebellion. The scenes of his furtive gay experimentation with cousins and school mates are at first humorous. ...more
Jul 28, 2010 James rated it really liked it
This is a gentle story narrated by young Gabriel Harkin, the son of the title, who lives in Northern Ireland during the 1960s and 70s. A young boy in 1964 when the novel begins, his story is one of growing up during the time of the "troubles" which provide a subtle background for his personal experience of dealing with his own homosexuality. He does well enough in school, but is not a scholar, and from the beginning he does not fit in either at school or at home. The novel traces his gradual ...more
Robert Rice
Robert Rice
A Son Called Gabriel
I would recommend this book to people who want to understand more of what happened during this time period. I think the author wrote this to enlighten the reader of the life’s of everyday Irish people and the hardships some endure. “Her ability to reverse herself and stand up for Father was truly astonishing” because it showed that even though she was mad at him she still wanted to protect him. I felt sorrow for the main character for all the trouble he has been t
Oct 16, 2012 Geoff rated it really liked it
I wasn’t sure about this book going into it. One of the best books I’ve read this year was The Absolutist by John Boyne, which is the story of a young gay man coming of age written by an Irish author; and one of my all time favorite books is At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill, which is the story of a young gay man coming of age written by an Irish author.

Overall I was completely underwhelmed until the last 15-20 pages of the book. I think McNicholl did a great job portraying working class Northe
Feb 02, 2008 Charles rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed by this book. I'd seen it compared to At Swim Two Boys, presumably because it's set in Ireland and has a gay protagonist, but really the two books have nothing at all in common. ASCG doesn't even read like a novel; it's more like one of those rather worthy over-detailed confessional affairs, in which everything that's there is there because it happened and not because it makes much narrative sense. There's very little narrative sense to be had in this book, in which one thing ...more
Emi Bevacqua
Mar 29, 2011 Emi Bevacqua rated it it was ok
This story is about a boy named Gabriel growing up in Ireland. His hysterical mother's rants made me laugh and his father reminded me of The Wonder Years dad I always loved. Brother, sisters, aunts, grandparents, school friends and teachers are all great characters, and I love an Irish brogue, but still this book felt long to me. Family secrets involve Gabriel's uncle Brendan, a priest away on an African mission. Most of Gabriel's childhood experiences seem to revolve around sexual ...more
Feb 27, 2013 Sandra rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2013
I have to say this was impressive, because despite a fairly one-note, first person delivery, which seemed to lack the level of rhythm and description other Irish writers have, this was nevertheless fairly compelling. In parts the vocabulary and level of questioning of Gabriel didn't match his age and was difficult to believe in, but overall the tale was well told, if not exactly 'enjoyable', because of the uncomfortable ups and downs of adolescence and all-too-recognisable insights into family ...more
Jul 29, 2013 Rachel rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 03, 2013 Eric rated it it was amazing
The confusion of growing up gay, the backdrop of increasingly heated relationships between Irish Catholics and Protestants, a big family secret, characters that feel like they breathe: these characteristics and more inhabit a book that is at times humorous and at times melancholy. It tells a story of the often difficult process of growing up in a way that makes you remember your own transition from "wee" to "grown" with both a smile, and a tear.
Aug 06, 2014 Joshua rated it really liked it
I truly enjoyed this book. Though slow at first, the end was absolutely riveting and I could not put the book down. I'm not such a proponent of books narrated by younger characters but this one is an exception. It was an easy read, not the most brilliant, but still managed to articulate key experiences and situations. Perfect if you're just getting into the genre.
Sep 28, 2013 Bill rated it liked it
The author did a good job bringing the Catholic/Protestant issues in Ulster at the time alive; and most of the characters were believable. Unfortunately I had difficulty with the main character. While his being bullied was something many could relate to I found him so unsympathetic that I almost didn't care what happened to him.
Beth Knaus
Jan 18, 2015 Beth Knaus rated it really liked it
The type of book that kept me thinking all the while I was reading it. It took me a while to understand the purpose of the story, but the writing was good bait and very engaging so I went along for the ride. My only disappointment was that the ending came along too fast and felt rushed, a little too neat and tidy like the author found something else to move on to.
Dec 12, 2012 Jeff rated it it was ok
Here on Goodreads, 2 stars means 'It was okay' and that's exactly what this novel was - just okay. I didn't hate it, but I wasn't particularly invested in it either. It left me wondering, "So what?" It's a fairly average coming-of-age story that read just like plenty of others, but the twist at the end was (to my surprise) more interesting than what I had assumed it would be.
Jun 01, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Too often today we find memoirs that turn out to be fiction. Well, this fictional account reads like a memoir and the author could have gotten away with pulling a James Frey on us.

I picked this one up on a whim and it was a great impulse.
RunWith Me
Jun 29, 2012 RunWith Me rated it really liked it
Shelves: beautiful-books
This book was insight into a harsh life, painful experiences offset by a soft and patient voice in the telling. At times poetic, at times stark. A Son Called Gabriel, read so many years ago, is one I remain thankful to have discovered.
Nov 07, 2009 Dave rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Nothing new to be learned from this one. Every cliche under the sun woven together and not particularly well.
Nov 07, 2015 Jordan rated it liked it
Enjoyable, but not amazing. I feel like the author could have done more with the story and characters than he did.
May 17, 2007 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Open Minds
This book was amazing, It shows the struggle between religion and true feelings. I think everyone should read this book.
Voixdesprit rated it it was amazing
Jan 13, 2009
Ngoako Jay
Ngoako Jay rated it really liked it
Aug 27, 2013
Nicholas rated it liked it
Sep 18, 2007
SW rated it it was amazing
Aug 21, 2016
JOSEPH OLIVER rated it it was amazing
Dec 13, 2014
Michael rated it it was amazing
Feb 24, 2012
Kyle rated it really liked it
Aug 26, 2012
Tom Loder
Tom Loder rated it it was amazing
May 16, 2016
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Damian McNicholl was born in Northern Ireland. His first novel, A Son Called Gabriel was an American Booksellers Association Booksense Pick and Lambda Literary Awards finalist. He lives in Bucks County Pennsylvania and is at work on his third novel.
More about Damian McNicholl...

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