Clara Callan

Wright, Richard B. Clara Callan: a Novel. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002.

Reason read: January has a Sisters Week for some country.

Engaged. Engaged is the word I would describe how I read Clara Callan. I think I read it in four days. Despite its name, Clara Callan is actually about two women, sisters in fact. Clara is the elder, living in their deceased parents house in a small rural town outside Toronto. She is a no-nonsense serious schoolteacher who loves to play the piano, read and  write poetry; a perfect candidate for spinsterhood and self righteousness despite the fact she no longer believes in God. Since it is the 1930s and Clara is so mysterious, she is also fodder for constant gossip and worry in her village. Meanwhile younger sister Nora Callan has flown the coop to America and the Big Apple to seek fame and fortune as a radio star. Despite their vasts differences the sisters remain close, sharing letters to keep in touch. Clara’s journal rounds out the epistolary tale and fills in the gaps.
Probably my favorite subliminal element to Clara Callan is how Wright weaves current events into to the story. Nora, being in show business, complains of a bratty young man hanging around a pretty brunette. The talented brunette would go on to star in a little movie about a wizard from Oz. Or the radio program designed to sound like a real newscast scaring the bejesus out of everyone. Or the new sensational book, Gone with the Wind. It is very tempting to put together a list of every book Clara reads or every song she mentions.
The novel has a Bridges of Madison County kind of feel to the ending. I was a little disappointed with the tactic.

Favorite lines, “As we drew closer to the great city, we passed freight yards and apartment buildings that were so close to the tracks you could look in on people’s lives” (p 74) and “I wasn’t aware that I muttered in the morning, but I suppose I do” (p 223). That’s what happens when you live alone for so long. You lose track of your habits until someone else finds them again.
One more quote, “The innocuous and banal words of the defeated who hopes to stir just a spoonful of guilt into the heart of the marauder” (p 321). How many times have I been there myself? This was a painful line to read.

Author fact: Wright has written a bunch of books with interesting titles. Unfortunately, this is the only one on my Challenge list. Also, I just found out Wright died in early 2017.

Book trivia: Clara Callan is a 2001 winner of the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award.

Nancy said: Clara Callan “won every major Canadian literary award in 1991” (p 201).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Sibs” (p 199).



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