Clara Callan

Clara Callan

A Novel

Book - 2001
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Underneath the seemingly ordinary lives of Wright's characters are entire worlds of emotion that, once entered, become wildy unpredictable. Clara Callan has that capacity to surprise, to draw the reader below the smooth surface of convention into a world of passion, where secrets percolate and sudden, unexpected violence erupts.

Clara Callan is set in the middle of the Great Depression, chronicling the lives of two sisters.Clara is a spinsterish school teacher whose quiet life in a small Ontario town masks a passion for love and adventure.Nora, her flighty and very pretty sister, travels to New York where she lands a starring role in a radio soap opera.

Written in diary and letter form, the novel brilliantly reveals the sisters' stories, as their lives become increasingly complex.Not since Brian Moore wrote I Am Mary Dunne has a male writer captured so well the inner life of female characters.And with Wright's extraordinary eye for small but telling details, the world of the thirties comes vividly to life, an era when show business was in its infancy, and the Dionnes grabbed the headlines, when Automats were a futuristic way of buying fast food and the Women's Auxiliary still ruled the social roost in small towns everywhere.Above all, Wright's portrait draws a world of young women -- pre-divorce, pre-Pill, pre-liberation, where judgment weighed heavily upon anyone who defied convention.

Clara Callan is so elegantly and seamlessly constructed that the reader enters it effortlessly and does not depart willingly.Readers and reviewers will agree: Clara Callan shows a writer at the top of his form
Publisher: Toronto : HarperFlamingoCanada, 2001
ISBN: 9780006392125
Branch Call Number: WRIG
Characteristics: 414 p


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Jul 27, 2016

'Clara Callan' by Richard B. Wright surprised me: I quite liked it. Written as a series of diary entries by Clara and various letters to and from Clara, the novel covers four years in the late thirties. While Clara seems to aspire to a quite life in a village, her glamorous radio star sister keeps Clara on her toes. Not that Clara needs the help: she finds illicit romance on her own in the gothic confines of small town Ontario.

Mar 10, 2015

I loved this book for the insight into the expectations which small communities placed on women in the 1930's. Women could work but they had better toe the line in their private lives as well or they were viewed as outcasts. The author is amazing at telling the story through a set of letters between the characters, mainly two sisters. Wright's characterization of these women is impeccable. A very good read. This was truly one book that deserved the Giller Prize.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 18, 2014

Clara is a calm, intelligent spinster schoolteacher in small town Ontario in the 1930’s. Beneath a conventional, perfectly adapted surface, she has a life rich in inner experience and a very corporal passion for a married man. Through letters and diary entries, Wright brilliantly reveals the lives of both Clara and her pretty younger sister who has gone off to a glamorous career in radio in New York City. Perhaps better than any male writer since Brian Moore, Wright captures the female experience at a time when young women were ruled utterly by society’s expectations. I was reluctant to leave this view into another life and the pleasure of reading the elegant work of a writer at the top of his form.

Jan 26, 2014

A terrific read. Makes you long for the days of letter writing.

WVMLBookClubTitles Jun 17, 2013

Set in the 1930s, an era when people escape reality through radio and movies, and the growing threat of fascism in Europe is a constant worry, two sisters in a small Ontario town grapple with social mores and expectations for unmarried young women. The winner of the two major Canadian fiction awards, this is a deeply moving portrait of loneliness, deception, friendship and hope.

Jul 12, 2011

Story told through letters that two sister are sending to each other. Depression era Canadian fiction that covers controversial and difficult topics such as rape, unplanned pregnancies, adultery and unwed motherhood.

Sep 20, 2010

A wonderful book about one women's courage during the 1930s, when she is set upon by two men. The result is an unwanted pregnancy, which she is able to deal with, only to find herself in a similar position later in life. How she copes with these complications in her life at a time when nontraditional relationships were not tolerated makes for powerful reading.

Sep 04, 2010

Referred by Michelle Musgrove

Jun 30, 2010

Wonderful read; non-traditional and emotionally charged.

Jan 22, 2010

I read this book several years ago and I still think about it today. An outstanding book that I highly recommend.

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