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.
Saturday, November 3 (8:10 p.m.)
Nora left for New York City today. I think she is taking a terrible chance going all the way down there but, of course, she wouldn't listen. You can't tell Nora anything. You never could. Then came the last-minute jitters. Tears in that huge station among strangers and loudspeaker announcements.
"I'm going to miss you, Clara."
"Yes. Well, and I'll miss you too, Nora. Do be careful down there!"
"You think I'm making a mistake, don't you? I can see it in your face."
"We've talked about this many times, Nora. You know how I feel about all this."
"You must promise to write."
"Well, of course, I'll write."
The handkerchief, smelling faintly of violets, pressed to an eye. Father used to say that Nora's entire life was a performance. Perhaps she will make something of herself down there in the radio business, but it's just as likely she'll return after Christmas. And ...
If you liked Clara Callan, try these:
Charity Girl examines one of the darkest periods in our history, when patriotic fervor and fear led to devastating consequences. During World War I, the U.S. government went on a moral and medical campaign, quarantining and incarcerating young women who were thought to have venereal diseases. They were called charity girls
A grand romantic novel of desire, fame, fanaticism, and unimaginable reversals of fortune set in the outskirts of the Bronx in the 1930s, as New York fills with Europe's ousted dreamers, turned overnight into refugees.
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