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3.49  ·  Rating details ·  1,694 Ratings  ·  93 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,
Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 17th 1995 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1983)
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Nov 19, 2016 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
Rob Twinem
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The mid 70's to early 80's was a time fraught with danger in Northern Ireland. As an expat living and working in England I am well versed to understand the mindset of the various embattled groups that continued to carry on a war of attrition not only against the so called enemy (police and army) but equally against each other and if you happened to be of the wrong religion residing in the perceived wrong locality intimidation was an everyday occurrence.
Cal McCluskey and his dad are a catholic f
Jay Gertzman
May 23, 2015 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
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reviews
Guilt, atonement and the futility of war are the central themes in Bernard MacLaverty’s 1983 novel Cal.

Set in Northern Ireland, it tells the story of Cal, a young, unemployed Catholic man living on a Protestant housing estate at the height of The Troubles. Each night he waits to be fire-bombed out of the home he shares with his father and each morning he gets up to find everything is okay.

But there’s a dark, pervasive atmosphere, one that seem only conducive to fear and violence, and for much of
Feb 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, war, favorites
Tender as a bruise, is this book.
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

Cal is the first book I think that I have read which so directly addresses the sectarian violence in 1980s Northern Ireland. I remember as an older child watching television news reports of IRA bombs and attacks, not understanding much of the reasons behind such atrocities and also not realising that, on English TV anyway, we were only generally shown half the story. At one point in Cal MacLaverty has his character wonder why Protestant activ
May 13, 2016 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
Apr 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
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
May 23, 2008 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.
Jun 02, 2016 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.
Sep 09, 2011 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
A beautifully sad story that makes us understand what it felt like to live in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

P.S.: My lil Glasgow-loving heart appreciated all the references. You can tell the author lives in Glasgow now haha.
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
Oct 16, 2008 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 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.
Mar 18, 2009 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.
Jan 26, 2008 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.
Feb 14, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 31, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
It misses true suspense and action.
Feb 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish, fiction
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 06, 2013 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.
Phils Osophie
Schullektüre... Unglaublich nervig. Werde ich irgendwann mal unvoreingenommen bewerten müssen.
Jul 23, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Was made read it in school.
Gizem Yüce
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a tiny little book but it packs an emotional punch. Cal tells the story of a Catholic lad growing up in a poor Protestant area during the troubles. I got this book during a book swap from a Scottish girl. It's on their reading list in school and she was surprised that I hadn't heard of it.

This book is likely a love it or hate it book. The story is dark and depressing, mirroring the area at the time and that's the point. This isn't supposed to be a happy book with a rewarding character ar
Tab Hunter
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stayed up late last night finishing it. Pleasantly surprised. The movie starring Helen Mirren is great, and the short novel its based on is as good as anything I've read about the Troubles. There are ways one could pick it apart, I'm sure, on the grounds of probability and caricature, but effective nonetheless. I was pleased to learn it's still in print. Some people must be reading it. (Or is it a matter of college syllabi?) My five stars mostly register my pleasure in reading it, rather than a ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book. it was a gritty and realistic view of a young Catholic man trying to find his place in Protestant Northern Ireland in the 1980's. even though the book of short I enjoyed the depth that this book offered through its descriptions and the emotions it evoked in me while reading.
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: at-home
It was not my type of book to read but I didn't think that it was bad or one of my favorites. I liked that it wasn't just a love story but also about feeling guilty and it showed Cal's obsessive side too. I wish the ending wasn't this open, I would've liked a conclusion.
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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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“He could not bear to look up and see the flutter of Union Jacks, and now the red and white cross of the Ulster flag with its red hand.” 0 likes
“The parade led by Evangelists screaming about sin and death and damnation.” 0 likes
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