The Gamal: A Novel

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Overview

Meet Charlie. People think he's crazy. But he's not. People think he's stupid. But he's not. People think he's innocent...

He's the Gamal.

Charlie has a story to tell, about his best friends Sinead and James and the bad things that happened. But he can't tell it yet, at least not 'til he's worked out where the beginning is.

Is the beginning long ago when Sinead first spoke up for him after Charlie got in ...

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The Gamal: A Novel

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Overview

Meet Charlie. People think he's crazy. But he's not. People think he's stupid. But he's not. People think he's innocent...

He's the Gamal.

Charlie has a story to tell, about his best friends Sinead and James and the bad things that happened. But he can't tell it yet, at least not 'til he's worked out where the beginning is.

Is the beginning long ago when Sinead first spoke up for him after Charlie got in trouble at school for the millionth time? Or was it later, when Sinead and James followed the music and found each other? Or was it later still on that terrible night when something unspeakable happened after closing time and someone chose to turn a blind eye?

Charlie has promised Dr Quinn he'll write 1,000 words a day, but it's hard to know which words to write. And which secrets to tell.

This is the story of the dark heart of an Irish village, of how daring to be different can be dangerous, and how there is nothing a person will not do for love.

Exhilarating, bitingly funny and unforgettably poignant, this is a story like no other. This is the story of the Gamal.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Katharine Weber
…the narrator of Ciaran Collins's remarkable first novel…has been encouraged by a mental health professional to write his story for therapeutic purposes. Charlie McCarthy, 25, is known in the West Cork village of Ballyronan as "the gamal," short for "gamalog," a term for a fool or simpleton rarely heard beyond the Gaeltacht regions of Ireland. He is in fact a savant, a sensitive oddball whose cheeky, strange, defiant and witty monologue is as disturbing as it is dazzling…Charlie's deadpan, vivid descriptions of the people and habits of Ballyronan make The Gamal quite worth the many detours for people who love reading, especially those for whom the journey, not the arrival, matters.
Publishers Weekly
05/13/2013
Collins’s confident debut novel concerns Charlie McCarthy and his friends James Kent and Sinéad Halloran, three teenagers who live in the small town of Ballyronan, Northern Ireland. Charlie, James and Sinéad’s sidekick, is the village “gamal,” an “eejit” whom, he says, people find “less-ish.” “You won’t like me,” he predicts, but his off-kilter voice is incredibly appealing. James and Sinéad are inseparable until rumors surface that Sinéad was raped by a traveling musician known as the Rascal. Or was it consensual? Either way, James is distraught. Because James is distraught, Sinéad is distraught, and their relationship is in danger of falling apart. The drama comes to a head in the worst possible way, and it’s understandable how Charlie comes to suffer from PTSD. (His doctor has convinced him to write out his story as part of the treatment.) Collins takes the familiar coming-of-age storyline of adolescent romance and tragedy and artfully depicts adolescent emotional distress without straying into melodrama. The novel, framed in flashback so that the story emerges through Charlie’s remembrances and transcripts from the resultant hearings, is cannily paced and rich with Irish dialect. Agent: Toby Eady, Toby Eady Associates (U.K.). (July)
From the Publisher
“The narrator of Ciaran Collins’s remarkable first novel, The Gamal, has been encouraged by a mental health professional to write his story for therapeutic purposes. Charlie McCarthy, 25, is known in the West Cork village of Ballyronan as “the gamal,” short for “gamalog,” a term for a fool or simpleton rarely heard beyond the Gaeltacht regions of Ireland. He is in fact a savant, a sensitive oddball whose cheeky, strange, defiant and witty monologue is as disturbing as it is dazzling… The novel’s greatest gift is the playful language that celebrates the thrill and desperation of living in this small country town.” —New York Times Book Review

 

“Astonishing. Inventive. Playful. Unique. A novel to savour. Ciarán Collins is the real deal” —Colum McCann

 

“Perfectly captures the joys and sorrows of adolescence and the maddening claustrophobia of a small Irish village. Its nearest literary ancestor would be The Catcher in the Rye” —Edna O’Brien

“In his first novel, Collins has done a masterful job of creating a memorable voice for his narrator and situations that are haunting in their poignancy and sadness. As characters, Sinead and James are as well crafted as Charlie himself, and all their lives and stories are unforgettable. The Gamal is an extraordinarily accomplished debut.” —Booklist (starred review)

 

“A brilliant, baffling, and twisted riff on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that readers will not be able to put down.” —Library Journal (starred review)

 

“A new literary star.” —Irish Echo

 

“[A] remarkable debut novel… Once in a while a novel from Ireland appears that has the power to make you reassess how you think and feel about the country. This year that head turning distinction belongs to Ciaran Collins, 35, the working school teacher whose debut novel The Gamal has garnered more praise in six months that most authors hear in a lifetime…There’s more than a hint of The Catcher in the Rye at work in this absorbing tale, but Collins has the skill to make you welcome the comparison. The fact is The Gamal describes Irish rural life and manners so evocatively that you’ll be spellbound from the first to last page… With a writing style that at times faintly echoes Roddy Doyle’s and Pat McCabe’s, Collins is still very much his own man, an immensely assured writer confident of his narrative gifts and in his ability to beguile the reader, making The Gamal one of the best debuts I have read in a decade…A tragicomic awareness has shaped Collins’ hilarious and terrifying new novel, the first truly accomplished work of post-collapse Ireland. In The Gamal he holds up a bright polished mirror and shows us our own faces.” —Irish Voice

 

“Funny, smart, and warm, here’s a voice that will catch you by surprise.” —David Vann

 

“Brilliant, a sign of more inventive things to come from a writer with powerful imagination, empathy, and a cutting sense of humor… The Gamal is a riveting, sometimes terrifying, and heartbreaking look at insidious small-town jealousy and the things people do for love.” —Irish America

 

"People have compared [The Gamal] to Roddy Doyle, Patrick McCabe and Paul Murray but it has an energy, a range and a confidence all of its own . . . . Astonishing . . . Collins will go on and produce a career of wonderful work." —Evie Wyld, Flavorwire

 

"A ferocious, heartbreaking confessional with a real voice." —Kirkus Review

Library Journal
The "Gamal" in Collins's debut novel is Charlie McCarthy, a socially impaired Ballyronan man in his mid-twenties. He narrates the story of Sinéad and James, young lovers who, like Charlie, do not fit into the insular life of a County Cork village. Sinéad and James dream of escape (perhaps even bringing Charlie with them), but events beyond their control separate them and reveal a fragility in their relationship that is exploited and abused by their peers. Sinéad and James pay a tragic price for being too kind, too talented, and too much in love in a town where envy and mediocrity reinforce social ambitions and expectations. As Charlie observes and records the fate of his only friends, his dark, peculiar nature becomes suspect. VERDICT A brilliant, baffling, and twisted riff on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that readers will not be able to put down.—John G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman
Kirkus Reviews
An adolescent boy in a rural Irish village recounts the terrible events that befall him and his closest friends, in this debut novel from an Irish author. Twenty-five-year-old Charlie McCarthy is the "Gamal" of the title--it's a Gaelic word that means "fool." He's a sobbing mess with a head full of bad wiring and a case of PTSD to beat the band. Charlie is writing down the story of his adolescence at the demand of his shrink. It starts haltingly, with Charlie inserting drawings, dictionary definitions and court transcripts in lieu of narration, which is what a traumatized, poorly educated young man might do. But by the time he finds his rhythm, Charlie isn't pulling any punches. "I seen fierce rotten things," he writes. "Your head would be fucked if you seen what I seen. See what I see." His story is ultimately about the fate of his only friends: James, a star-crossed lover who falls desperately in love with Sinéad, a lovely young girl with a beautiful voice. "I'll mention others along the way," Charlie tells us. "The story is mainly about people. And the things they do to each other." Local rivalries, family feuds and Shakespearean tragedy all come into play in Collins' dark story, but it's Charlie's haunted voice that makes it come to life. A ferocious, heartbreaking confessional with a real voice.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608198757
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 7/23/2013
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 595,946
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Ciarán Collins was born in County Cork in 1977. He teaches English in a school in West Cork. The Gamal is his first novel.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2013

    Very entertaining. Very interesting. Very well written.

    Really liked this book.

    Charlie is a great character.

    Worth your time and money.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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