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King Leary

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  909 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Selected as the 2008 CBC Canada Reads Winner!

"A dazzling display of fictional footwork… The author has not written just another hockey novel; he has turned hockey in a metaphor for magic." Maclean's

Percival Leary was once the King of the Ice, one of hockey's greatest heroes. Now, in the South Grouse Nursing Home, where he shares a room with Edmund "Blue" Hermann, the antag
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 28th 2007 by Anchor Canada (first published 1987)
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3.52  · 
Rating details
 ·  909 ratings  ·  72 reviews

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Whenever I can't sleep I often play a game. I go through the alphabet thinking of novelists I have read. Men first, then women and then, if it is a really bad night, children's authors. Most letters i have no problem with but 'Q', now that is always a struggle. So I hit upon a cunning plan. Going to the Cinema bookshop, an enormous, cavernous place with endless bookcases and shelves stretching over two floors I decided to find a couple of Q's. Paul Quarrington, of whom I had never heard, was one ...more
Oct 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed-books
I am revising my review slightly, because when I last wrote, I was feeling "under the weather".

Although I grew up playing hockey, (on frozen ponds, mainly, with the neighbourhood boys), I have never really enjoyed watching, or reading, about the sport. This book is, of course, not necessarily for a Hockey fan.

To quote a friend: A perspective, too, on the changes of attitude in media/sport relationships and the "hero" athlete.

So, in the end, I'd say, give it a "shot"! :)
Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺
This book won Canada Reads in 2008, but surprisingly it does not seem to be widely read. It’s the heartfelt tale of a life told from a comical point of view. Leary is now a “grumpy old man,” but throughout the story he reflects on his friendships, family, and career in a meaningful way. Alcoholism is also a recurring theme.
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Read in 2008 for Canada Reads, my review from January, 2008:

Oh gosh, I am so glad I read this book. Notwithstanding that I haven't yet read the other 2008 Canada Reads candidates, I'm quite prepared to say King Leary should be "la premier etoile"!

Percival "King" Leary is an old man (read "one foot poised to kick it") and former hockey legend. As I was reading I did wonder for a while whether he really was a legend "in the books" or whether the highlight reels existed only in his own mind because
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book was chosen as the 2008 "Canada Reads" selection. Each year, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation invites four or five noteworthy figures from Canadian arts and letters to nominate a favorite book, the only rule being that the volume must reflect Canadian culture and values. The merits of each book are debated, often quite vigorously, in a series of radio programs, until one is selected that year's Canada Reads winner. The goal is to have every citizen of the nation read the book, in h ...more
Feb 29, 2012 added it
Full of blarney, spit and spunk, and often drunk on ginger ale, Percival Leary was the king of the ice in his heyday, captain of the Ottawa Patriots, trained by monks and fearless in the rink. King Leary now lives in a nursing home with his crony Blue Hermann, a former newspaper reporter, but when Leary is asked to travel to Toronto to film a ginger ale commercial, they pack up their canes and go. This book has an incredible voice and truly memorable characters and is easily the best novel about ...more
Jun 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Tania by: CBC Canada Reads Winner
Hmmm. I was let down. Winning the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour I was expecting something very different. I couldn't find humour in what seemed to be the downward spiral of an old man going insane, surrounded by drunkards throughout his entire life. Kinda sad to me really. On the upside, their were some very humorous one liners from the narrator.
Sep 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Why are the characters in Paul Quarrington novels always drunk?
Nickolas Serniuck
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
King Leary by Paul Quarrington is a fantastic novel that any hockey fan will love. King Leary is a fiction novel placed in Toronto, and a fictional town named South Grouse. The Canadian author Paul Quarrington got the idea of the main character and dedicated the novel on a page before it starts to a former NHL player in the early 1900’s named Francis Michael Clancy (Quarrington). There are many similarities between the main Character Percival “King” Leary and Francis “King” Clancy. Percival is I ...more
Nov 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hockey fans and those with silly senses of humour
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: Canada Reads / Dave Bidini
Another winner from Mr. Paul Quarrington, whose awesomeness I came to much too late. This lively tale is the first-person narration of Percival "King" Leary, former hockey legend and now "agèd and infirm" resident of a seniors' home, soon to be the star of a ginger ale commercial. Along the way he tells his life story, with his memories of the past intruding upon the present. Hilarity ensues.

I knew I would get along splendidly with this book for two reasons: one of Leary's teams is called the To
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canada-reads
King Leary is a poignant book. Yes it has wit and humour, but it is mostly the meditation of an elderly man on his life; the good, the bad, his adventures and friends, all set against the quintessential Canadian backdrop of hockey.

Percival "King" Leary is a great character and is drawn vividly by Quarrington. His unique voice never wavers throughout the book. King reminisces about his life and his hockey career, and begins to see things more clearly, leading to some peace and reconciliation as h
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a wild and wacky hockey novel, in which hockey enters the realm of the mythical, the supernatural, and the just plain weird. Let's say it's impressionistic rather than realistic.
Told in the first person by "King" Leary, a former hockey player and current nursing home resident, it is both the story of his early life--encompassing childhood, a stay at a Catholic reform school for boys, and hockey fame; and his current life--in which he comes to terms with (and indeed seems to consider for
David McClelland
Jul 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comedy, canadian
My first Paul Quarrington book turns out to be a pretty good one. The story of the once-great hockey player Percival "King" Leary who, after scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal back in "one-nine-one-nine" and coaching the "Toronto Maple Leaves" to glory in the 40s, is now old and decrepit in a small-town nursing home. The book uses flashbacks to sketch out his life (and the various colourful characters that inhabited it), while a story in the present-day revolves around his trip to Toronto to f ...more
Aug 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Who knew Canada Dry ginger ale could make you drunk? This I learned from reading this book. Percival 'King' Leary, the hockey phenomenon from the early days, is going to do a commercial, visit the new Hockey Hall of Fame and pass on his King crown to the latest superstar, all on the Canada Dry dime. Happy day, except now he is in a care home, old, decrepit and needing a nurse. Flashbacks to his childhood and his days as an NHLer mix with the present on the trip to Toronto. The game of hockey and ...more
2.5 stars

Percival “King” Leary was a hockey superstar in the NHL in the early 20th century. He is now in a nursing home and has been asked to star in a ginger ale commercial with a young, current NHL star. In this book, King looks back on his life in hockey and with his family and friends.

I think it was supposed to be funny (having won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour). Hmmmm, not for me. In fact, I found it kind of boring. Not necessarily because of the hockey. I don't watch hockey
Dec 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Dave Bidini
Recommended to Sarah by: Dave Bidini/Canada Reads 2008
Shelves: 2008
Okay, the final book I read for Canada Reads 2008. Here's the deal: I don't really enjoy books about old people. Yikes. Tough to admit, but true. The Telling of Lies by Timothy Findley was tedious, and Stephen King's Insomnia was a struggle in junior high. I just don't easily relate to senior citizens in popular fiction. It's easy to extrapolate that Quarrington is a skilled writer from King Leary's prose, but not easy to relate to his aged characters and their "gormless" peers.
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
I re-read this book in December 2017 and have a bit more appreciation for it than the first time through. I can see why it won for humour and won Canada Reads, but it is still not the type of book I like to read nor one I recommend to friends. The writing is decent and the book may appeal to those who enjoy hockey.

The main character, an older man living in a senior's facility, makes a commercial with a current hockey star and along the way relives his own glory days as a hockey player (in the ea
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book has been on my radar since I read and loved Bill Gaston's The Good Body. Someone suggested to me that I would probably like King Leary. And then when it won Canada Reads I mentally made a note that I still hadn't got around to it. It's too bad, because it's f***ing brilliant. This is purely selfish, but I met Paul Quarrington briefly at last year's Eden Mills festival. I think I said, Nice to meet you. I wish I could have said how much I loved his writing. It's probably for the best, t ...more
Feb 08, 2013 rated it liked it
It took me so long to read this book. Usually I can read a book in a few days, but this it took me over two weeks. Mind you, I was reading other books along the way, but I wouldn't be looking for others if this one kept my interest.

I did not dislike the book, I found it good, but there were areas that I struggled with. I found Percy Leary to be egotistical, lonely and mean spirited towards his children, but I enjoyed his memories, mainly the ones at the Bowmanville Boys' reformatory. Also I rea
Beautifully done. A wonderfully fuuny book that manages to celebrate the great Canadian passion but which is much, much more than a 'hockey novel'. The characters are beautifully rendered and Leary's awakening into understanding is both fantastic and believeable. I am no longer not much of a fan of the game but I truly enjoyed this novel.
Question: Why does the character always refer to the Toronto Maple 'Leaves'? Every Canadian knows that it should be the Toronto Maple 'Leafs'. The same reason t
Jul 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club, 2008
This is a choice from a member of my bookclub, otherwise I doubt that I would ever had read it. And, had I been in a different mood, I probably would not have liked at all. But, there is something as “the right book at the right time”, and I did laugh lots in a moment when I needed to find a book that would make me laugh.

The characters are quite stereotypical, but humour is by nature stereotypical characterization. And Quarrington’s humour is fresh, non-cliché. It lacks a certain depth in plot
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it
This book was chosen for Canada Reads this year, which is rather surprising because it is pretty old, which sort of implies that this is the best Canadian book of all time... I definitely would not call it that, but it was refreshing to read a book that is told through your grandpa's eyes. Actually, I only wish my grandpa was that cool... Reading this sort of made me never want to drink again, except maybe ginger ale.
Nov 28, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a light, mostly amusing read, but the humour is a little too over-the-top for my liking, and the story doesn't evoke much from this reader.

But, as a light summer read, especially if you're a hockey fan, and maybe sitting on your cottage dock, sipping a Molson Canadian and humming our second national anthem, 'the hockey song', (dum, da dum, da dum...) this book can be a charming read.
May 02, 2010 rated it liked it
This was a CBC Radio "Canada Reads" winner last year so my book club decided to read it. Nobody was impressed. Neither was I. Reading it was like being at a party where everyone there is drunk except you. It did provoke some discussion about hockey and its history. But I don't recommend it unless you are a hockey trivia fan.
Lesson learned: you can't always expect reality radio to come up with the best (?)
Chris Cowie
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian
I read this book not long after it was written in the late 80s. At the time I didn't really like it all that much. After Quarrington's untimely death I decided to read his other books and loved them, particularly Whale Music. Boy, what a difference some time makes! I loved this book! In fact, I'd have to say it's the best hockey fiction I've read - better than The Good Body by Bill Gaston and way better than the over rated The Antagonist by Lynn Coady.
Jul 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008, fiction
I read this because it won Canada Reads on CBC which, I should know by now, is a dubious honour. Canada Reads is a radio debate over several Canadian works of fiction, all of which are ok, but none of which ever appear to stand out in my mind.

King Leary, obviously a play on Shakespeare, is a bland history of an aged former NHL star. I wouldn't say to avoid it, but there are certainly plenty of other, better Canadian novels to read in lieu of this.
Dec 22, 2007 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed Quarrington's invented turn-of-the-century slang throughout King Leary. Little Leary's vocabulary is a mixture of 1920s excess, hockey goon, and egomaniac. Which is interesting for a character who seems to have no care what others think of him in his old age but for his title of King. While Quarrington's writing is unique, and the dialogue hilarious, the story is told in a bit of a heavy handed manner, where the last few chapters of the book seemed unnecessary.
Jan 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this as my sports themed book for the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder challenge. it was a slow read for me because I have very little interest in sports, but it was well written and the characters were fairly interesting.

[SPOILER] The ending, an easy transition to an earlier memory of hockey under a full moon, was fantastic.
This won the 2008 "Canada Reads" contest, so yay for Paul Quarrington. I think he was a great human being and a great writer. (Sadly, he died in early 2010.)

This book is the life story of a hockey legend as he nears the end of his life. I didn't love this book, but I also couldn't put it down.

Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: can-lit
A quintessentially Canadian novel. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of old-time hockey culture against the hectic pace of the modern world as the protagonist, an aged athletic 'King' long forgotten by the world, goes on one last adventure as he heads to Toronto (towing his alcoholic nurse and decrepit roommate with him) to film a ginger ale commercial with the NHL's newest superstar.
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Paul Quarrington was a novelist and musician, an award-winning screenwriter, filmmaker, and an acclaimed non-fiction writer. His last novel The Ravine was published in March 2008. His previous novel Galveston was nominated for the Giller; Whale Music won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Quarrington won the Stephen Leacock Medal for King Leary, a title that also won the 2008 Canada Reads c ...more
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