9780060506063

Clara Callan: A Novel

Wright, Richard B.

ISBN 10: 0060506067 / 0-06-050606-7
ISBN 13: 9780060506063
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Hardcover
Editorial Reviews for this title:
Synopsis:

Winner in 2001 of Canada's two most prestigious literary awards -- the Governor General's Award and the Giller Prize -- Richard B. Wright's celebrated novel Clara Callan is the powerful, moving story of two sisters and their life-changing experiences on the eve of World War II.

It is the year 1934, and in a small town in Canada, Clara Callan reluctantly takes leave of her sister, Nora, who is bound for the show business world of New York. It's a time when people escape from reality through radio and the movies, when the Dionne Quints make headlines, when the growing threat of fascism in Europe is a constant worry, and the two sisters -- vastly different in personality yet inextricably linked by a shared past -- try to find their place within the complex web of social expectations for young women in the 1930s.

While Nora embarks on a glamorous career as a radio soap opera star, Clara, a strong and independent-minded woman, struggles to observe the traditional boundaries of a small and tight-knit community without relinquishing her dreams of love, freedom, and adventure. But Nora's letters eventually begin to reveal that her life in the big city is a little less exotic than it may seem: though her career is flourishing, her free spirit is curbed by a string of fairly conventional and unsuccessful personal relationships. Meanwhile, the tranquil solitude of Clara's life is shattered by a series of unforeseeable events, turns of fate that require all of Clara's courage and strength, and that will put the seemingly unbreakable bond between the sisters to the test.

Ultimately, both discover not only the joys of love and possibility, but also the darker side of life -- violence, deception, and loss -- lurking just beneath the surface of everyday experience.

Clara Callan is a mesmerizing tribute to friendship and sisterhood, romance and redemption, written with such insight and passion that the characters' stories will remain with you long after you have read the last page.


Review:
A finely detailed depiction of the Depression era, Richard B. Wright's 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, Amazon.ca

Review

Review:
In the midst of the Great Depression, two sisters from small-town Ontario pursue separate destinies. While Nora escapes to New York City to become the glamorous star of a radio soap opera, her older sister Clara follows a more conventional route, staying home and teaching school. Yet, as Clara's diary and the sisters' letters reveal, beneath the seeming ordinariness of her daily life the spinster schoolteacher hides dark secrets and clandestine longings. In his sensitive portrait of a quietly passionate woman who defies social mores, Richard B. Wright brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of the 1930s, when show business was still in its infancy and the world trembled on the edge of war.

From the Back Cover

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Clara Callan (ISBN: 9780060506063)
Wright, Richard B.
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