Clara Callan

Clara Callan

4.4 5
by Richard B. Wright
     
 

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PerfectBound e-book exclusive extras: "Richard B. Wright: Hero of the Humdrum"; etc.

Winner in 2001 of Canada's two most prestigious literary awards -- the Governor General's Award and the Giller Prize -- Richard B.See more details below

Overview

PerfectBound e-book exclusive extras: "Richard B. Wright: Hero of the Humdrum"; etc.

Winner in 2001 of Canada's two most prestigious literary awards -- the Governor General's Award and the Giller Prize -- Richard B.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Canadian author Wright (The Age of Longing) has published eight novels, but remains unknown to most readers in the States. His most recent offering, which won Canada's 2001 Governor General's Award and the Giller Prize, could change that. The story's conceit is simple enough: Clara Callan is a single "schoolteacher who likes to write poetry," left to fend for herself in the tiny town of Whitfield, Ontario, after her father dies and her sister, Nora, takes off for New York City. The novel is made up of a series of letters and journal entries written between 1934 and 1939. During that time, Nora becomes a radio soap opera star, while Clara loses her faith in God, is raped by a vagrant, has an abortion, engages in an affair with a married man named Frank and finally gives birth to a daughter. Nora and the lesbian writer of her soap opera, Evelyn Dowling, are Clara's main correspondents, but the news she relates in her letters (such as "grippe and calloused hands"-although she also shows concern for the world's more serious injustices) contrasts with the darker events recorded in her journal entries. Wright has accomplished an amazing feat by allowing his characters to emerge, fully formed and true, without authorial intrusion into their intimate psychological world, revitalizing the epistolary form in the process. This novel will remind some readers of the American poet Elizabeth Bishop, herself an avid correspondent, and of the way in which the elegant surfaces of her letters sometimes cracked open to reveal demons lurking below. (Oct. 1) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The separate histories of two sisters are traced with understated compassion in this superb novel, the ninth from the Ontario author (Farthing's Fortunes, 1976, etc.) and winner of Canada's Giller Prize and Governor General's Award. A haunting epigraph from Rilke that asserts the dignity and value of unremarkable lives precedes the text, which is composed mostly of dairy entries penned by the eponymous Clara, an unmarried schoolteacher who remains in her rural hometown of Whitley (near Toronto), and the letters Clara exchanges with her "glamorous" sister Nora, who escapes Whitfield for New York City and a career starring in a popular radio soap opera, and also with cynical Evelyn Dowling, the irrepressibly mannish writer of Nora's show, The House on Chestnut Street. Hardly ever raising his voice, Wright assembles a vivid picture of pre-WWII Canada (the story's major events occur during the years 1934-38), when the Western world thrills to he phenomenon of the Dionne quintuplets and nervously observes the rise of fascism in far-off Europe. It's as if the "progress" of the century ironically mocks that of Clara, who makes hesitant forays away from her stifling matrix-daring a brief trip abroad with the now-sophisticated Nora, enduring a frustrating not-quite-love affair with her "man" in Toronto, self-absorbed Frank Quinlan (a devastating characterization of the kind of superficially appealing male whom every woman eventually realizes she never really wanted), and consequentially encountering a menacing drifter that fulfills with a vengeance Clara's fantasies of "adventure." A terse afterword reveals the later fates of both sisters, incidentally explaining how their story came to bewritten. Though nobody seems to have noticed, Clara Callan is almost certainly modeled on Arnold Bennett's classic 1908 novel, The Old Wives' Tale-and is not much, if at all, inferior to that masterpiece. A wrenching chronicle of time passing and opportunity lost.
Toronto Star (on THE AGE OF LONGING)
“A near-perfect miniature: precisely written, true in voice and setting.”
The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)
“A master story-teller.”
New York Times
“Mr. Wright writes with the apparent ease of breathing, and he is both touching and very very funny.”
Winnipeg Free Press
“A compelling narrative and characters that brim with humanity.”
Toronto Star
“A near-perfect miniature: precisely written, true in voice and setting.”
Washington Post
“A compelling story of perseverance and quiet triumph.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“As compelling as any Margaret Atwood or as incisive as a Robertson Davies.... [An] invigoratingly original work.”
Times Literary Supplement (London)
“A singularly poignant story about the depravity of human beings [and] their compassion and amazing capacity to endure.”
Quill & Quire
“A classic page-turner.”
Boston Globe
“Entertaining.”
New York Times (on THE AGE OF LONGING)
“Mr. Wright writes with the apparent ease of breathing, and he is both touching and very very funny.”
Jay Parini
"CLARA CALLAN is one of those rare novels that one might justifiably call a masterpiece."
Time Magazines Literary Supplement (London)
"A singularly poignant story about the depravity of human beings [and] their compassion and amazing capacity to endure."
-- Jay Parini
“CLARA CALLAN is one of those rare novels that one might justifiably call a masterpiece.”
— Jay Parini
“CLARA CALLAN is one of those rare novels that one might justifiably call a masterpiece.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781554684809
Publisher:
Renouf Pub Co Ltd
Publication date:
05/15/2009
Edition description:
Reprint

Meet the Author

Richard B. Wright is the author of nine novels, including The Age of Longing, In the Middle of a Life, and Weekend Man. He lives with his wife in Saint Catharines, Ontario.

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