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Call My Brother Back

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  73 ratings  ·  10 reviews
It is 1918 and 13-year-old Colm MacNeill is living happily on Rathlin Island, when his security is suddenly shattered by the death of his father. The loss of the family breadwinner forces the MacNeills to leave their island home for Belfast, where they become caught up in the conflict.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 15th 2003 by Blackstaff Press (first published January 1st 1979)
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This coming-of-age novel tells the story of Colm MacNeill, the son of a Catholic fisherman on Rathlin Island. The time-frame of this novel is 1918-1921. After a family loss, they move to Belfast to a poor neighborhood off the Falls Road. Colm attends a Catholic boy's school, first as a boarder, and later as a day student. His fees are paid by the parish priest back on Rathlin Island. While Colm sees himself as a poor student, he actually does well enough to have a university education in his fu ...more
Roberta McDonnell
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This novella was the trigger for a 'Road to Damascus' moment for me in my journey into literature. My first reading took place as a young student nurse in the 1980s - an antidote to the textbook studying I had to do at the time. The impressions of Rathlin Island, especially the rock pools evoked by McLaverty's subtle mastery of imagery and language, are burned into my memory from that first reading. Another layer of the book reveals the complex emotional world of each of the individual character ...more
Nov 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a book that I've had on my shelves for a while, and considered one of the 'classics' of fiction about Northern Ireland. I had always passed over the novel when choosing a new title, but when I heard McLaverty's name mentioned in a number of different contexts over a short period of time, I thought that I'd give the book a go.

Published originally in 1939, McLaverty, who was a school principal in Belfast, and indeed for a time an employer of Seamus Heaney, tells the story of the MacNeill
A. Mary
Apr 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish-novels
This is a lovely book. Some readers will prefer the section on Colm's life on Rathlin Island, others his life in Belfast. The book is set in the years around the War of Independence, and there is much that is just ordinary family life, daily living, play, skillfully drawn. But, of course, the sectarian violence encroaches on the neighbourhoods, and everything changes. Colm is another in a large body of child protagonists in Irish writing. He's smart, likable, confused. He's worth reading. ...more
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a truly beautiful book, from start to finish. Knowing Rathlin and Belfast well, I greatly enjoyed the rich descriptions of both settings. The writing is direct and descriptive, but laden with emotion and longing. Events are described in a matter of fact way which still allows humour, joy and warmth to break through and illuminate the never ending days of play, work, study and mountain meanderings which make up the MacNeills' existence. Not a syllable is wasted in the economic telling of ...more
Jun 14, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: set-in-ireland
This book begins in 1918, and follows the schooling of a young boy. The first 1/3 is set on Rathlin Island and the last 2/3 is set in Belfast. I had hoped he’d get to go back to Rathlin to visit again, but he never did. The book ended somewhat abruptly, I thought.

I believe it’s one of only a few books that are set on Rathlin.
Andy McDougall
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
This classic and brilliant novel takes us even further back in time, to the early twentieth century and the conflict of the 1920s. Colm MacNeill is raised on Rathlin Island, where there is not even a policeman to watch over them, but a change in circumstance sees the family obliged to move to Belfast. There things will become more complicated, both individually and on a grander scale.

Full review here
D.J. Kelly
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written story by my favourite Irish author. His words flow from the page like honey. Enough said.
Charlie Gerroni
It was Morbid in Places and was mostly a book full of descriptions and not enough drama
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  Jordan Morris is a comedy writer and podcaster whose credits include @Midnight, Unikitty! and Earth to Ned.  The sci-fi comedy Bubble is his...
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