The Gamal, Ciaran Collins

 

Bloomsbury Circus
Bloomsbury Circus

Read mostly: in bed.
Read partly: in the sunshine (didn’t much suit it).
Format: Paperback, a little thick for my doll hands.

Charlie (the gamal) is our reluctant narrator, he has been encouraged by his psychiatrist to write 1,000 words a day to help him come to terms with the tragic events he has recently endured. Trouble is, Charlie hates writing (and reading)- an intriguing prospect for any writer to challenge themselves with. This leads to Charlie finding novel ways of filling his word quota which consequently results in a unique reading experience for the reader: combining song suggestions, drawings, scanned in photographs and court transcripts. It perhaps resembles the early workings of many novels which are then subject to dozens of redrafts. It is this ‘unfinished’, ‘uncaring’ format which intrigued me most. Sprawling close to 500 pages, the storyline itself sometimes feels a little stretched and I have to admit that the first 200 or so tested my commitment to the rest of the novel but I was well rewarded for my perseverance.

Star-crossed lovers Sinead and James are the undeniable focal point of the story; I have to admit that throughout the novel I grew tired of their signing/song writing outbursts, I found it cringey (and a tad repetitive), but as Charlie’s version of events unfolds you realise the importance of these moments in developing empathy for them, their initial innocence and the way it slips away from them.
Surprisingly, by the end I felt I knew least about Charlie but perhaps that’s the point. As distinct as his voice is throughout, his actions fade away amongst the drama created by his friends. The ability to enter this tumultuous adolescent world from such a simple point of view without losing intensity is this book’s greatest achievement.

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