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| Mac Laverty, Bernard: Cal
Mac Laverty, Bernard: Cal
"Call" was written by Bernard Mac Laverty. It was first published by
Jonathan Cape in 1983.
Bernard Laverty was born in Belfast, where he worked for ten years as a
medical laboratory technician before studying English at Queen`s University. He
then moved to Scotland and taught for a number of years.
He now writes and lives in Glasgow.
He has written two novels, Lamb and Cal and three collections
of short stories, Secrets, A time to dance and The great
Profundo. Both Lamb and Cal have been made into successful
films. Bernard Mac Laverty has been consistently well reviewed in the
The main character of this novel is Cal McCluskey. He is 19 years old. He
loves music and plays the guitar. When playing the guitar, he shakes his head
from side to side and his long hair covers his face, screening him from the
world. Because of his hair the length it is, he has had to develop some female
gestures like holding it back to prevent it getting in his cup.
Cal`s mother died when he was eight and sometimes he thinks of her and of
what have said to him in this of another situation. His father, Shamie, tried to
replace her, but he failed.
Cal has no friends. There is Crilly, but he is not Cal`s real friend. Cal
doesn`t like him, he tries to avoid him, without success. He is afraid of Crilly
Cal lives with his father in a Protestant estate. Shamie works at the
abattoir and they are the only Catholics still living there. Fear has driven out
the others long ago, but Shamie doesn`t leave. He is stubborn, "No Loyalist
bastard is going to force me out of my home. They can kill me first." Cal
doesn`t fear a single bastard, it is the accumulation of them which makes him
He has once worked at the abattoir, but he doesn`t like the smell in there,
so he left. He now is unemployed.
At the library he meets Marcella Morton who has started working there. He
has never met her before, but he knows her name. He learned her name at an
incident which he`d rather forget.
Cal falls in Love with Marcella, but the memory o what has happened
prevents him to get closer to her.
And there is Crilly, his "friend". Crilly is an unscrupelous man who
obviously is a member of the IRA. Cal has to drive the van when Crilly has to
rob a shop or to move "dangerous goods" from one house to another. He doesn`t
like Crilly and he wants out, but he has no courage to leave. They would kill
So during the day he works at the Morton`s farm where he had the chance to
get a job which allows him to be near Marcella. At night he drives the van for
One evening, just coming home from work, Cal notices a burning house. He
realizes that it is the house of him and his father. It is no accident that the
house is burning. Some "Loyalist bastard" has set fire.
Shamie can stay with a relative of him. Cal uses the chance to escape. He
hides in a cottage at the Morton`s farm. Only Marcella, her family and the
foreman know where he is staying. Cal gets closer to Marcella and she also falls
in love with him.
When Cal goes to town at Christmas to buy some presents, he bumps into
Crilly who immediately takes him to Skeffington. They are asking him where he
now lives. They want to have control over him. Suddenly the police arrives and
arrests Crilly and Skeffington. Cal escapes, but the next day, Christmas Eve, he
is also arrested.
For Cal some of the choices would have been simple. Work at the abattoir
that nauseates him or join the dole queue? Brood on his past or plan a future
with Marcella? His choice about the first question went right, but the second
was rather difficult for him. He couldn`t forget his past. If Cal had told
everything Marcella, he would have been able to manage his past.
Bernard Mac Laverty describes the Situation of young people in Northern
Ireland. It is difficult for the youth not to get involved in this bloody and
violent war between the Protestants and the Catholics. If one ever joins one of
the groups, it is hardly possible to escape, to get out.
"What`s this price you`re talking of?"
"We want to know where you are staying - so we can get in touch with you if
we need you."
"So the price of getting out is staying in? And if I refuse?"
"This is not a game we`re playing, Cal."
"Cal" is not only the story of a young man between two parties who just
wants to be left in peace. Springing out of the fear and violence of Northern
Ireland, "Cal" is a sad love story in a land where tenderness and innocence can
only flicker briefly in the dark.
I liked the book very much. It is not a book which you read for joy and
when you`ve finished it you put it away. "Cal" fascinated me, I had to read it
till the end and afterwards I was thinking about Cal`s destiny. The author
describes the lives of his characters with tremendously moving skill. He knows
how to increase the tension and with the open end of his story he asks the
reader to have a critical look at the conflict.
I followed with great interest the actions, because of these I could learn
a lot about the characters. The flashbacks have been very important for me to
understand Cal himself. Because of them I understood why it was so difficult for
him to live his own life.
Bernard Mac Laverty`s novel "Cal" is a remarkable story of a doomed love
affair and an account of the impossibility of living in the circumstances of
that province, without redemtion and without punishment.