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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rediscover the 1930's and a great Canadian writer!
I was extremely intrigued by the title when I first noticed this book on the shelves of my favorite bookstore. I immediately wanted to know who was Clara Callan. I was not disappointed in Richard B. Wright's latest novel. Written in diary and letter form this is the romantic and sometimes tragic story of two Canadian sisters, one, an ordinary school teacher, the other, an...
Published on July 12 2002 by Blflowerbug

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Does not live up to its promise
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 book. That did not last long. Following Clara's rape I found the book went downhill at an astonishing rate. Her fascination and imaginings about her rapist were ridiculous ... almost...
Published on June 29 2008 by Barnaby Black


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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rediscover the 1930's and a great Canadian writer!, July 12 2002
By 
Blflowerbug (Quebec, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Clara Callan (Hardcover)
I was extremely intrigued by the title when I first noticed this book on the shelves of my favorite bookstore. I immediately wanted to know who was Clara Callan. I was not disappointed in Richard B. Wright's latest novel. Written in diary and letter form this is the romantic and sometimes tragic story of two Canadian sisters, one, an ordinary school teacher, the other, an aspiring actress. The writer leads us into their thoughts and through their actions and the repercussions they face as he develops his characters through the 1930's, retelling a bit of our history. Highly recommended. You won't be disappointed. I look forward to his next book.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unremarkable life?, Nov. 29 2002
By 
Friederike Knabe "Books are funny little port... (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Clara Callan (Paperback)
Clara Callan, the protagonist of Wright's novel, is a small town spinster in the 1930s. She lives a reasonably comfortable life thanks to the inheritance of her father's house and a job as a local schoolteacher. Through her diary entries and exchanges of letters, mainly with her more glamorous younger sister Nora, Clara reveals herself to the reader. Wright has created a believable character that "grows on you" as her personality emerges little by little. Life's difficulties during the Depression years, in particular for a single woman in rural Southern Ontario become apparent through the description of daily events. However, a very dramatic personal incident and its aftermath force Clara to confront her new circumstances in a very direct manner. While she was accustomed to express her daily experiences and reflections in poems, events interfere and poetry becomes impossible. She recognizes "how suddenly a life can become misshapen, divided brutally into before and after a dire event." Her beliefs are challenged and so is her self-contained whole-ness as a person.
Clara's personal story is embedded in the realities of the mid-thirties where unemployment is rife and poverty spreading. Although at the periphery of the main thrust of the book, Wright alludes to the emerging pre-war anxieties. He touches on the contrasts between city and rural living, utilizing Clara's reluctance to accept such innovations as the telephone, as an example. Yet, the regular Saturday trips to Toronto, perceived by her as a necessary escape from the village, lead to a new, important phase in her personal development, giving her also a new taste of independence. She visits her sister in New York, although in rather difficult time in her life. Cleverly, Wright lets her visit pre-war Italy as a third party to her sister's vacation. It allows the author to add impressions of the growing political conflicts in Europe as a backdrop without losing the focus of the story.
The counterweight to Clara is Nora, who could not bear small-town Ontario and leaves for New York to "make it in radio". She becomes successful as a radio voice in daytime "soaps" and her personal life seems to take on some aspects of a soap opera itself. Nora is privileged in finding a solid rock in a glamorous female friend, Evelyn, while her on and off affairs are far less successful. Clara, always concerned about her sister and her superficial lifestyle, attempts to remain the firm family base for her sister, but her own life story places her more and more on a shaky ground. She finds advice and empathy through her correspondence with Evelyn.
Clara Callan is a very engaging story indeed. Wright successfully places himself into the mind of a woman: Clara's personality quietly and gently takes hold of the reader as one follows her in the exploration of the multifaceted realities of her time and place.
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4.0 out of 5 stars exceptionally written and moving, Oct. 6 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Clara Callan (Paperback)
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. in fact, it reminded me a little of the relationship i have with my own sister. i was very impressed that a male author was able to write the inner dialogue of two young women so well.
the true sign of an engaging novel is wanting more when you get to the end - and when i turned the last page i felt disappointed to say goodbye to Clara and Nora...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, entertaining, intrigueing, Nov. 1 2002
By 
William E Harris "bharris199" (St. Catharines, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Clara Callan (Paperback)
Just a wonderful book. I had to check to make sure it was really fiction. The writing was so well done and interesting I could have sworn I was in small town Ontario in the 30's. I'll be eagerly anticipating his next book and will be checking out some of his earlier work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great comedy., July 2 2013
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This review is from: Clara Callan (Paperback)
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, Feb. 20 2013
By 
Joan Lemire (Ottawa, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Clara Callan: A Novel. (Hardcover)
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. Nice story of everyday lives of sisters.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous!, Sept. 24 2007
By 
Usman Hamid (Montreal, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Clara Callan (Hardcover)
It would be superflous to simply praise this book, after all it is one of the rare if not the only book to have won the two most prestigious CanLit awards, the Governer General's and the (Sociabank) Giller award. Clara Callan is an undulating work of literary excellence. This is a must read book.

The story is set before the second world war in a small town in Ontario, where Clara Callan, a solitary thirty something school teacher, ponders the meaning of life, love and happiness while floating in the banal everyday existence that a small town has to offer. But no life is ever ordinary and the journey Clara takes in the years leading to the second world war are filled with both happiness and sorrow but most of all discovery. No man is an island and certainly not Miss Callan whose correspondance with her sister Nora, a sprity creature who runs off New York to be a radio star, and the ever sharp witted Evelyn, alongside Clara's diary, forms the basis of the novel.

The true charm of the novel is not its plot twists and deft storytelling but the humanity with which the characters are rendered for both their beauty and warts, and the recognition that even the most seemingly mundane and ordinary life is a tale worth telling.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally satisfying., Dec 31 2002
By 
Carol (small-town Ontario) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Clara Callan (Paperback)
I absolutely loved this book. I recently discovered that my own grandmother had some similar experiences to Clara Callan in the 1920's, and as I read along, I could see and hear my grandmother reacting and living her life the same way. It's as if the author was a single woman living at this time, with all of the beliefs and innocence of that period. Having lived all of my life in small town Ontario, there is much I can relate to. And I cheered for Clara and her brave decisions. The end of the novel is extremely satisfying. Can't wait to read more of Mr. Wright's work.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Does not live up to its promise, June 29 2008
This review is from: Clara Callan (Hardcover)
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 book. That did not last long. Following Clara's rape I found the book went downhill at an astonishing rate. Her fascination and imaginings about her rapist were ridiculous ... almost embarrassing. Her relationship with Frank was too clichéd to be believable, and the constant reference to sexual relationships was boring and unconvincing. And while lesbianism was alive and well during that era, it was not something that the average small town gal would know much aboout ... and certainly would not have been a topic for open discussion. I found myself skimming huge sections as it was just too tedious to plough through it all.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, Feb. 16 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Clara Callan (Paperback)
A well-researched, well-written novel. Brings you right inside the time period, before the Second WW. I enjoyed the sister's relationship. It was realistic and beautiful.
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Clara Callan
Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright (Mass Market Paperback - July 8 2004)
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