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3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  953 ratings  ·  53 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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I found Cal on a list of top ten books about the Troubles. Leon Uris’s sprawling and cinematic Trinity, which I read last summer and found historically impressive but aesthetically underwhelming, is also on the list, a few notches above Cal. Though Cal is much slimmer and less glamorous, it’s infinitely better than Trinity and packs a stronger punch.

Cal is set near Belfast during the 1970’s. It’s primarily a love story between two people separated by age, lifestyle, politics, and a big, lurking
Tender as a bruise, is this book.
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.
Romeo O'Juliet meets Maggie Mae. A thoroughly depressing book from a thoroughly depressing time. An awesome writer.

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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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
It misses true suspense and action.
Was made read it in school.
Clive Thompson
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
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
I really loved this book. It really captures Irish life during the Troubles in a brilliant way. The story is written very vividly: it almost becomes a film in your head. I really liked Cal, the main person - obviously - as well. Would recommend for anyone who wants to get an inside peek into life as a catholic in the Troubles, or anyone who likes a good book really!
Andrew Kordower
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
Nothing really happens. But then again , that might not have been the purpose of the author for something extravagant. I think it does a good job of showing someones perspective and their guilt. I was rooting for Cal, that much I can say.
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!
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 Murphy
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
I really loved the simple way in which this heart breaking story was told. Real, and not overly dramatic.
Betsy Vonk
Powerful portrayal of a young man during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
The love story has the depth of a grade-11 math-class daydream, but MacLaverty's illustration of the hopelessness of Ulster life is absolutely soul-crushing.
Joanne in Canada
Cal is young, unemployed, and a reluctant participant in the Northern Irish "troubles" of the 1980s. He strives to do the "right" thing despite the complex and violent situation in which he is enmeshed. MacLavery deftly captures the tension and conflicting feelings of a small cast of intertwined characters.

Of course, I was predisposed to like this book, having loved this melancholy movie when it was released in 1984. The music of Mark Knopfler's soundtrack wafted through my memory as I read. Mus
A good, quick, entertaining summer read that also asks some good questions about love and loyalty. Cal's complicated character took on a depth that's deceptive, given the fast pace of the narrative and the short length of the book. Against the backdrop of sectarian violence in Ireland, and amidst a context of people seemingly passionate about one side or another, Cal's conflicted feelings and relationships highlighted the more muddled reality behind a visage of unswerving devotion, or a set of p ...more
An intensely psychological book, centering on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I consider the book mostly a tragedy, with the characters unable to escape the weight of the history of conflict and the present world it has created for them. They live in a world that does not allow any gray area, meaning the choices are truly life and death. Its a quick read, but probably best for someone who has an interest in Irish literature and history. I have more thoughts here at some point.
Cal is a Catholic teenager growing up in a predominately Protestant neighborhood in Ulster. Though he and his family have felt the persecution of the Orangemen, Cal cannot stand the IRA tactics. He is tortured by the memory of his friend murdering a Protestant. He is also in love with the murdered man's widow.

This book was very interesting. It was very much about how guilt can permeate someone's life. I thought the ending of it was a little bit abrupt. A little sad too.
I like McLaverty's writing a lot. This is the first one I read - I thought I'd put it on GR but apparently not. A tense, superior novel set in Northern Ireland during the troubles in the 70s. Try his stories - recently read 'Matters of Life and Death' which has two great stories.
bugger it I don't know how to put links in or italics come to that
This was a book I was made to read during my fourth year of high school for my English class and at the time I really disliked it a lot. If I hadn't been recquired to read it, I would never have picked it up. However I did read the novel again (a couple of times) afterwards and I found that I was able to appreciate the story more when I wasn't being forced to study it and that's why I've given it 4stars now.
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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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