PRESS & REVIEWS
Haddon’s Christopher Boone, the narrator of Ciaran Collins’s remarkable first
novel, “The Gamal,” has been encouraged by a mental health professional to
write his story for therapeutic purposes. Charlie McCarthy, 25, is known in the
West Cork village of Ballyronan as “the gamal,” short for “gamalog,” a term for
a fool or simpleton rarely heard beyond the Gaeltacht regions of Ireland. He is
in fact a savant, a sensitive oddball whose cheeky, strange, defiant and witty
monologue is as disturbing as it is dazzling. [...] Charlie’s deadpan,
vivid descriptions of the people and habits of Ballyronan make “The Gamal”
quite worth the many detours for people who love reading, especially those for
whom the journey, not the arrival, matters. The novel’s greatest gift is
the playful language that celebrates the thrill and desperation of living in
this small country town."
Independent on Sunday 'Tremendous'
"He is a tremendous storyteller [...] the unflagging ingenuity of Ciarán 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."
"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."
Booklist USA (Starred Review) 'Masterful'
"In his first novel, Collins has done a masterful job of creating a memorable voice for his narrator and situations that are haunting in their poignancy and sadness. As characters, Sinead and James are as well crafted as Charlie himself, and all their lives and stories are unforgettable. The Gamal is an extraordinarily accomplished debut."
"Genuinely heartbreaking in parts, The Gamal is a gritty, modern Romeo and Juliet told by a compelling and original voice."
The Irish Times 'Outstanding'
"The Gamal is very, very funny. His quirky voice and sharp observations alone make the book well worth reading. [...] This is one of the most imaginative and entertaining novels to be written in Ireland recently. It is a complex tragicomedy, portraying the life of young people in an Irish parish in a highly original way, and dealing with the major teenage issues of the moment – bullying, depression, suicide – with compassion and intelligence. There is a lot of good writing from Co Cork and this is one of the best examples I have come across. The Gamal is an outstanding debut for Ciarán Collins."
"A naive fool reveals the real world in Collins' magnificent literary debut. This debut novel is a remarkable achievement by a writer of extraordinary talent. Ciaran Collins is a name we will no doubt be seeing on the lists for literary prizes in the coming months and years ahead."
Irish Independent 'Remarkable'
"Ciaran Collins's outstanding first novel concerns a doomed teenage love affair in a rural West Cork small town sometime in the 1990s. Yet though the story is essentially tragic, comedy comes in the form of narrator Charlie, who proves to be a highly entertaining chronicler of what happens [...] The narrative is full of arrestingly droll images [...] but the tragic element is always there [...] In the first page he had already warned us not to expect "any big flowery longwinded poetic picturesque horseshit passages" as the book was meant "for people like myself who hate reading". On the contrary, this is for people who love reading and who will welcome an engrossing story that's brilliantly told [..] a remarkable first novel."
"Ciaran Collins has created a highly individual voice for his
hero in this stellar debut: one that has deeper feelings than he lets on to the
outside world, but is funny and self-deprecating too, when he's trying his
hardest not to sound like a writer."
"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. Charlie has the discomfiting, not quite plausible voice of a narrator who is trying very hard to persuade his reader of something. We might like him, but we certainly don't trust him [...] In the last few pages of the novel, Charlie remarks that perpetrators of crimes, as well as the witnesses and victims of them, can suffer from trauma. The novel ends abruptly shortly afterwards, and this well-judged finish leaves the reader space to reconsider the mass of Charlie's words – the disjointed memories and the non sequiturs – in order to work out just who, in this novel of love, friendship and small-town gossip, is guilty of what."
"I get sent a lot of debut novels at the shop but I’m such a slow reader that I don’t read as many of them as I’d like to. The Gamal by Ciarán 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 )
“A brilliant, baffling, and twisted riff on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that readers will not be able to put down.”
“And we won’t, he promises, like him. Considered a drooling simpleton –a
Gamal – by most of his fellow villagers, the 25-year-old Irishman is recovering
from a tragedy involving his star-crossed friends Sinéad and James. Charlie is
not happy that his psychiatrist has bid him write 1000 words a day as therapy.
But his cussing, hilarious, deeply hurt, insightful voice is mesmerising, even
lyrical. Despite his protestations to the contrary, this reader liked him very
"Incredibly appealing . . . Collins takes the familiar coming-of-age storyline of adolescent romance and tragedy and artfully depicts adolescent emotional distress without straying into melodrama . . . cannily paced and rich with Irish dialect."
"Startlingly moving and distinct, this is a beautiful novel. At times extremely funny, heart-breaking, and shocking, and ever wholly engrossing, Collins fills The Gamal with a rare poignancy, passion and insightfulness. The unpredictable, understated brilliance of the narrator, Charlie, balances a brutally honest depiction of mental anguish, and illness, through his own battle to come to terms with events, against the slow burning intrigue of this lyrical, bittersweet love story. The Gamal is as accomplished as it is original [...] Emotionally intricate, thought-provoking, regularly surprising and touching, yet all without cliché or any excess of sentiment; quite simply brilliant - read it."
"I couldn’t possibly have been prepared for this. I had not expected to be shattered, exhilarated, distressed, elated… so completely alive when I read it. [...] I could go on and on and on about the writing — though I won’t. I’ll just leave you with this: rarely has a book had this kind of effect on me before. It made my blood sing, it put music in my soul, it made me young and intensely alive again. How many books can you say that about? Read it."
"From the opening pages the complex dynamic of that friendship is gripping; Charlie’s deep affection for his friends, twinned with jealousy towards their romantic relationship, unfolds into a rich narrative. As an unwilling narrator, Charlie’s distinctive prose hooks the reader, revealing to us the keen intelligence he keeps from others. For a long read, the story never feels drawn out, flicking between scenes in the courtroom, school and Charlie’s therapy sessions. Collins offers originality, darkness and wit in this tale that gives a sharp insight into Irish village life."
The Irish Voice & IrishCentral.com 'Hilarious and Terrifying'
"Once in a while a novel from Ireland appears that has the power to make you reassess how you think and feel about the country. This year that head turning distinction belongs to Ciaran Collins, 35, the working school teacher whose debut novel 'The Gamal' has garnered more praise in six months that most authors hear in a lifetime.
With a writing style that at times faintly echoes Roddy Doyle’s and Pat McCabe’s, Collins is still very much his own man, an immensely assured writer confident of his narrative gifts and in his ability to beguile the reader, making 'The Gamal' one of the best debuts I have read in a decade.
A tragicomic awareness has shaped Collins’ hilarious and terrifying new novel, the first truly accomplished work of post-collapse Ireland. In 'The Gamal' he holds up a bright polished mirror and shows us our own faces."
Books Ireland Magazine 'Wonderful'
"I'm not given to superlatives but it became quite clear to me as this book went on that Ciarán Collins had written one of the best novels of the last twenty years. I was unable to put it down and it rings in my mind even now. [...] Cruel, funny, tragic, yes but mostly a novel that deserves the highest success. I hope it finds the audience it deserves."
Litro Magazine 'Powerful'
"Powerful in building a unique and memorable voice and a tense, close atmosphere [...] what it is to be on the cusp of adulthood, the aching piquancy in the contrast between all that we could be when we are not quite full grown and the reality of what we then become is at the emotional core of the book."
The Daily Telegraph & The Courier Mail (Australia) 'Authentic and Daring'
“Collins has created a likable larrikin . . . A rougher version of Holden Caulfield . . . Authentic and daring.”
“The Gamal is a highly original and heartbreaking story with an unforgettable narrator whose voice is like no other.”
"Fiercely original, Charlie is charming in his inability to abide by the rules of the civilised world... He is very funny, clever, shrewd and anything but the Gamal... The Gamal is a winner on many counts. Like Edna O’Brien rightly mentions on the cover, the nearest literary ancestor of Collins’s book would be The Catcher in the Rye. Collins manages to explore the mental, emotional, sexual and moral confusions that churn inside the cauldron of youthful passions quite engagingly. He shows the courage to beat the lesser trodden path with his narrative style and writes with confidence. The use of the Irish slang in the book lends a rustic charm to the story. An impressive debut by the young Irishman, The Gamal is dark, witty, heartbreaking, and very clever."
“Brilliant ... from a writer with powerful imagination, empathy, and a cutting sense of humor ... The Gamal is a riveting, sometimes terrifying, and heartbreaking look at insidious small-town jealousy and the things people do for love.”
The Sunday Times Culture (Ireland) 'Told With Flair'
"Ciarán Collins's ambitious yet well-anchored debut novel elicits a strong emotional reaction by setting two irreconcilable extremes on a collision course. [...] 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."
The Sunday Business Post 'Compulsively Readable'
"A compulsively readable narrative [...] The Gamal is a moving book that compels you even as it repels you."
Kirkus Reviews USA 'Heartbreaking'
"Local rivalries, family feuds and Shakespearean tragedy all come into play in Collins' dark story, but it's Charlie's haunted voice that makes it come to life. A ferocious, heartbreaking confessional with a real voice."
TV3 Bord Gáis Energy Book Club 'Original and Intelligent'
"The Gamal is narrated by Charlie, a disruptive young man that people write-off as stupid, illiterate and a messer, but he's much more than that. Original and intelligent writing that reminded me of Patrick McCabe's 'The Butcher Boy'." -Bob Johnston
"An outstanding book [...] incredibly funny [...] full of wonderful asides [...] and genuine tragedy at the heart of it." John Boland
The Gamal is reviewed on Today With Pat Kenny (RTÉ Radio 1, April 16). Listen here (it's about 4 minutes in)
The Works RTE1 (April 11)
Ciarán meets John Kelly to speak about The Gamal
Watch it here (it's about 19 minutes in, Apirl 11th episode)
Hot Press 'Stunning Debut'
Paul Nolan of Hot Press interviews Ciarán Collins about The Gamal. Read it here
The Telegraph, India 'An Absolute Joy to Read'
"Collins’s triumph in the novel lies with Charlie, who is both youthfully inexperienced and all-knowing. His narration is bolstered with a devious, cunning humour that is an absolute joy to read... Charlie’s razor-sharp, hilarious comments about the people around him, his eccentricities and his deliberate stubbornness are the very reasons that readers like him."
Praise for Tausend Worte (the German translation)
Tausend Worte (the German edition of The Gamal) has garnered some high praise in Germany. Der Spiegel called it a "poignant and immensely charming story." Bayerischer Rundfink (Bavarian Broadcasting) said "you will devour this mysterious, original and darkly funny novel." Buecherrezension's verdict is that Tausend Worte is a "thrilling debut." Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung said it's "A complex, funny, captivating tale of love, friendship and guilt."
Praise for Charlie Le Simple (the French translation)
"...brilliant and irresistibly funny first novel from the Irishman [...] in exceeding itself, the crude and truculent text becomes a form of poetry."
"Outstandingly susscessful...Ciarán Collins has an amazing sense of accents and language of the every day -so clever...served by a translation which captures the jubilant, imaginative, playful language."