Clara Callan

Clara Callan

A Novel

Book - 2002
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Baker & Taylor
A moving novel of World War II follows the adventures of two Canadian sisters who struggle against social convention--one in a small town in Ontario, the other in New York City. 35,000 first printing.

Blackwell North Amer

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.

& Taylor

A novel of World War II follows the adventures of two Canadian sisters who struggle against social convention--one in a small town in Ontario, the other in New York City.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002
ISBN: 9780060506063
Characteristics: 415 p. ; 24 cm


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Jul 27, 2016

'Clara Callan' by Richard B. Wright surprised me: I quite liked it. Written as a series of diary entries by Clara and various letters to and from Clara, the novel covers four years in the late thirties. While Clara seems to aspire to a quite life in a village, her glamorous radio star sister keeps Clara on her toes. Not that Clara needs the help: she finds illicit romance on her own in the gothic confines of small town Ontario.

Mar 10, 2015

I loved this book for the insight into the expectations which small communities placed on women in the 1930's. Women could work but they had better toe the line in their private lives as well or they were viewed as outcasts. The author is amazing at telling the story through a set of letters between the characters, mainly two sisters. Wright's characterization of these women is impeccable. A very good read. This was truly one book that deserved the Giller Prize.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 18, 2014

Clara is a calm, intelligent spinster schoolteacher in small town Ontario in the 1930’s. Beneath a conventional, perfectly adapted surface, she has a life rich in inner experience and a very corporal passion for a married man. Through letters and diary entries, Wright brilliantly reveals the lives of both Clara and her pretty younger sister who has gone off to a glamorous career in radio in New York City. Perhaps better than any male writer since Brian Moore, Wright captures the female experience at a time when young women were ruled utterly by society’s expectations. I was reluctant to leave this view into another life and the pleasure of reading the elegant work of a writer at the top of his form.

Jan 26, 2014

A terrific read. Makes you long for the days of letter writing.

WVMLBookClubTitles Jun 17, 2013

Set in the 1930s, an era when people escape reality through radio and movies, and the growing threat of fascism in Europe is a constant worry, two sisters in a small Ontario town grapple with social mores and expectations for unmarried young women. The winner of the two major Canadian fiction awards, this is a deeply moving portrait of loneliness, deception, friendship and hope.

Jul 12, 2011

Story told through letters that two sister are sending to each other. Depression era Canadian fiction that covers controversial and difficult topics such as rape, unplanned pregnancies, adultery and unwed motherhood.

Sep 20, 2010

A wonderful book about one women's courage during the 1930s, when she is set upon by two men. The result is an unwanted pregnancy, which she is able to deal with, only to find herself in a similar position later in life. How she copes with these complications in her life at a time when nontraditional relationships were not tolerated makes for powerful reading.

Sep 04, 2010

Referred by Michelle Musgrove

Jun 30, 2010

Wonderful read; non-traditional and emotionally charged.

Jan 22, 2010

I read this book several years ago and I still think about it today. An outstanding book that I highly recommend.


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