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The Gamal

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Skippy Dies meets The Butcher Boy in a wickedly funny and heartbreaking modern-day Romeo and Juliet

About the Author

Ciaran Collins was born in County Cork in 1977. He teaches English in a school in West Cork. The Gamal is his first novel.


Perfectly captures the joys and sorrows of adolescence and the maddening claustrophobia of a small Irish village. Its nearest literary ancestor would be The Catcher in the Rye * Edna O'Brien * Astonishing. Inventive. Playful. Unique. A novel to savour. Ciaran Collins is the real deal * Colum McCann * The real pleasure of the novel lies with Charlie, who is both naive and knowing. His narration is shot through with a sly humour that's a delight to read ... Well-judged finish leaves the reader space to reconsider the mass of Charlie's words * Guardian * The Gamal by Ciaran Collins forced me to read it from the first page and it's not left my head since I finished it. Funny and sad is the holy grail of coming of age novels for me and I can't remember the last time a book made me honk with laughter, only to force me to get off the tube early with tears streaming down my face fifty pages later. People have compared it to Roddy Doyle, Patrick McCabe and Paul Murray but it has an energy, a range and a confidence all of its own. It's an overused phrase but The Gamal is an astonishing debut and I feel sure Collins will go on and produce a career of wonderful work * Evie Wyld, Flavorwire * Ciaran Collins's ambitious yet well-anchored debut novel elicits a strong emotional reaction by setting two irreconcilable extremes on a collision course ... Alternately cynical and idealistic, "the gamal" is an insightful witness, absorbing more than he lets on ... A disturbing moral tale told with flair and an ear for stinging vernacular, this will haunt the memory as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet set in Cork * Sunday Times Ireland * The Gamal is an audacious debut. 114,124 words from an unforgettable narrator * John Boyne on Twitter * An outstanding book. Incredibly funny ... with hints of genuine tragedy at the heart of it * John Boland, RTE Radio One * He is a tremendous storyteller ... The Gamal sprawls to more than 450 pages, but the unflagging ingenuity of Ciaran Collins's writing justifies its length. He exists somewhere in a literary territory between Patrick McCabe and Roddy Doyle, but he is very much his own man and this is a cracking debut, as moving as it is entertaining * Independent on Sunday * There is nothing quite like reading a first novel by a truly original new talent. Ciaran Collins's tale of star-crossed lovers explores the darkness, cruelty and bitterness behind the banter of Irish village life. A novel of wit, boisterous humour and also inevitable tears. Collins is in a great Irish story-telling tradition going back to Roddy Doyle, Sean O'Faolain and Flann O'Brien * Gavin Esler * Ciaran Collins's The Gamal is the story of an outsider, Charlie, a 25-year-old social misfit who might be violent, a kind of Grendel, misunderstood and underestimated. As is usually the case with outsiders, though, Charlie has an uncommonly clear view of everyone in the village. Funny, smart and warm, here's a voice that will catch you by surprise * David Vann * Ciaran Collins has created a highly individual voice for his hero in this stellar debut * Herald (Glasgow) * A mixture between Butcher Boy, Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha and Catcher in the Rye ... You'll lash through it ... It's funny and tragic and brilliant all at the same time ... I struck gold with it * Ryan Tubridy, RTE 2 * It's with a Shakespearean element of irony that Collins's main narrator ... Actually ends up defining a number of home truths to the so-called sane society he doesn't fit the parameters of * Irish Examiner * The depiction of village jealousies is reminiscent of Patrick McCabe, the language is Roddy Doyle transported to a rural backwater, but these are trivial comparisons. What first-time novelist Ciaran Collins has produced is much more than a pastiche of small-town Ireland; to describe it as a love story or a coming-of-age book or a treatment of mental illness would do it an injustice, though there are elements of all of those things. With its mixture of mordant humour, astute observation and clever use of postmodern devices, it is a book that is unique in itself and breaks new ground in many ways. The voice is authentic, the language simple and direct, the atmosphere intensely claustrophobic; it is rare to meet a first novel of such merit * Sydney Morning Herald * I'm not really given to superlatives but it became quite clear to me as this book went on that Ciaran Collins had written one of the best Irish novels of the last twenty years. I was unable to put it down and it rings in my mind even now. If the Celtic Tiger saw the Irish novel drift off into mediocrity the recession has at least thrown up this gem ... It is that rural Ireland though that gives this book its deep authenticity and allows the author to pinpoint the characteristics of small town life, of men in pubs, of sport and its adherents, of old, supposedly subsumed, hatreds with a startling and truly artful degree of accuracy ... At one level the book perfectly catches the at times near horror of being an adolescent, suggesting that it could have a fine role as a set book in secondary schools, but it also exists at many levels beyond that ... I could go on and on with the wonderful phrases this book throws up. Cruel, funny, tragic, yes all of those things but mostly a novel that deserves the highest success. I hope it finds the audience it deserves * Books Ireland * A compelling read * Irish Examiner * Reading The Gamal is indeed part-jigsaw, a process of piecing the various clues together, but it's a richer experience for it. Charlie holds his own against any precocious child narrator, and Collins' brave decision to end his novel with questions left unanswered is brilliantly confident. Genuinely heartbreaking in parts, The Gamal is a gritty, modern Romeo and Juliet told by a compelling and original voice * Independent *

Collins's confident debut novel concerns Charlie McCarthy and his friends James Kent and Sinead Halloran, three teenagers who live in the small town of Ballyronan, Northern Ireland. Charlie, James and Sinead's sidekick, is the village "gamal," an "eejit" whom, he says, people find "less-ish." "You won't like me," he predicts, but his off-kilter voice is incredibly appealing. James and Sinead are inseparable until rumors surface that Sinead was raped by a traveling musician known as the Rascal. Or was it consensual? Either way, James is distraught. Because James is distraught, Sinead is distraught, and their relationship is in danger of falling apart. The drama comes to a head in the worst possible way, and it's understandable how Charlie comes to suffer from PTSD. (His doctor has convinced him to write out his story as part of the treatment.) Collins takes the familiar coming-of-age storyline of adolescent romance and tragedy and artfully depicts adolescent emotional distress without straying into melodrama. The novel, framed in flashback so that the story emerges through Charlie's remembrances and transcripts from the resultant hearings, is cannily paced and rich with Irish dialect. Agent: Toby Eady, Toby Eady Associates (U.K.). (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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