Saturday, December 29

Book Review: Clara Callan

Title: Clara Callan

Author: Richard B. Wright

Pages: 415

Summary: 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.

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a book I couldn't put down while I was reading it, and it was one of those books, which once it ended, I was sad to see it end.

It was hard to find a fault with the book, and  I'm not exactly sure what pulled me into it either, but whatever it was, I was transfixed by it.  I loved how it was written by a collection of letters between the sisters and journal entries from Clara. I think it helped me enjoy Clara's character so much was being able to get into her head by her journal entries. She may not be the most interesting character out there, especially compared to Nora, but she has her own unique qualities and she will be a character I'll remember.  I loved the bonds of sisterhood and friendship the author created between the two, even when they lived apart, and were starting to become drawn apart with their separate lives, they still had a great bond together. And the author showed that wonderfully.

The plot was also just as well done as the characters. There may have been a few predictable parts to it, but I loved it nonetheless. It was well paced and how the characters were portrayed, combined with how it was written just made for a fantastic read.

In the end, a lovely read - and one of my favourite reads of the year.

Would I recommend it to read: I would highly recommend the book to read. (I read it during my lunch at work, and came close coming back late because of the book)

What to read next: I'd check out some of the other winners from the Giller and Governor's General awards. 


  1. Isn't it the best? I just loved this book a few years ago. I tried another of Wright's books, October, but I wasn't as pleased, but then Clara set some pretty high standards.

    1. It was a fantastic book. I also read October, and like you, wasn't pleased. But I read October first.