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A finely detailed depiction of the Depression era, Clara Callan is told entirely in the letters and journal entries of two adult sisters, Clara and Nora Callan, and their older lesbian friend, Evelyn. The novel, Wright's ninth, made a surprising sweep of Canada's major awards for best novel--the Giller Prize and the Governor General's Award--in 2001. Wright has the gift of making the reader care deeply about these characters and their worlds, which include small town Ontario, where Clara is a sensitive schoolteacher, and New York City, where the younger Nora has moved to become a radio soap opera star. Since both sisters are still "on the shelf," their roller-coaster love lives--Nora's in worldly Manhattan and Clara's in the more restrictive atmosphere of small-town spinsterhood--are a primary subject of their letters and Clara's journal.
This is a quiet book, studied and well researched, but thoroughly engaging and readable. Numerous references to period music, political events, and the looming war quite successfully place the reader at both the centre and the periphery of life in the 1930s. Side trips to Italy and to view the Dionne quintuplets feel entirely authentic. With deceptive simplicity, the author creates a world of clear images: "Nora came in from her shuffleboard game with a sweater tied across her shoulders, her hair damp from the rain." Most importantly, Wright has realized characters that come alive on the page--quite a feat considering the self-imposed limitations of this novel's form. --Mark Frutkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
I didn't want this book to end. One of the best books I've read in a long time.Published 2 months ago by Emily Saunders
This story of a young woman finding her purpose in life is emotionally gripping that leaves the reader wanting just a little bit more near the end.Published 8 months ago by Lawrence West
The main character is so hum drum, and ends up to be a hoot!
It shows how the folk in that era lived, worked and played.
This was a very easy read and I enjoyed it as a change. I would recommend it to some of my friends who only read at night and don't like anything upsetting or violent. Read morePublished on Feb. 20 2013 by Joan Lemire
This was my first time reading this author, and I enjoyed his writing style of written letters between the characters, as well as the main character Claras diary entries. Read morePublished on Nov. 11 2011 by Novel Girl
Richard B. Wright had escaped my reading pile until recently. I just finished Shakespeare's Bastard and was so pleased with his written word and ability to write from a female... Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2011 by charmaine
I began this book - a Book Club choice for me - with enthusiasm, and at first found it interesting. I wanted to find out what happened to the sisters, and was quite engaged in the... Read morePublished on June 29 2008 by Barnaby Black
This book sat on my shelf for at least 2 years before I picked it up and once I did I could not put it down! Read morePublished on Jan. 8 2008 by K. Harrison
this book engaged me almost instantly. although i did not always agree with the actions of the characters, i found it realistic and found i really cared about the characters. Read morePublished on Oct. 6 2004