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3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,230 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
First published in 1983, this lyrical novel, superficially straightforward but full of stories within stories, first brought Bernard MacLaverty's work to public attention. In the novel, a young Irish Republican Army operative who wants to break the cycle of violence seeks out a woman whose Ulster policeman husband he helped to murder. As their relationship grows, so do Cal ...more
Paperback, 154 pages
Published 1984 by Penguin Books (first published 1983)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,007)
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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
Oct 02, 2009 Jaime rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, war, favorites
Tender as a bruise, is this book.
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.
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.

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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Apr 28, 2013 Joey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
May 31, 2011 Thaliane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
It misses true suspense and action.
Jul 23, 2010 Ben rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Was made read it in school.
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
Nov 06, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it
What Cal lacks in pages it more than makes up for in intensity. This all too believable story of how an ordinary Ulster lad gets caught up in the Troubles is distressingly played out against a grim background of poverty and sectarianism. The lack of opportunities and the gradual closing off of avenues of escape is very well handled and the doomed love affair at the centre of the plot is heartbreakingly drawn. This is powerful, punchy fiction.
Look, this was well-written, and emotionally pretty demanding. But why spend all that effort getting you emotionally hooked on Cal and Cal alone when you could've had a novella about Marcella, or a longer novel alternating their PsOV? I want an ending that acknowledges that Marcella has been really, thororughly screwed over. Your husband is shot, you're living with your inlaws, and you finally start letting yourself recover by having it off with a farmhand. Then said farmhand is arrested and you ...more
May 10, 2015 Konstantin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: j-adore
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 killed and to mak ...more
Jan 16, 2015 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brutal, harsh, empty of sentimentality, but full of the reality of life and the attempts at atonement for one's sins. For some odd reason, I really enjoyed this short read and it definitely made me reflect on my good fortune, even though I was unaware of it at the time of reading.
Andrew Kordower
May 06, 2014 Andrew Kordower rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story is well written... but it seems so short. When I read through it the first time I wanted to read more. I wanted out more about each character. This story feels like it woulc have been well over 500 pages rather then less then 200
Nov 12, 2014 Pampuig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely stunning piece of writing. I listened to this on audio - read beautifully by David Threlfall, its moving, real and very powerful. First book for me from this author and I'm now looking for my second!
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
A. Mary
May 18, 2012 A. Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Derek Henderson
Apr 07, 2015 Derek Henderson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Touching, wonderfully concise, brilliant characterization. You get a real sense of the times and the human consequences of the Troubles.
May 25, 2014 Betsy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerful portrayal of a young man during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
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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
More about Bernard MacLaverty...

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