King Leary by Paul QuarringtonKing Leary by Paul Quarrington

King Leary

byPaul Quarrington

Paperback | November 28, 2007

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Selected as the 2008 CBC Canada Reads Winner!

"A dazzling display of fictional footwork… The author has not written just another hockey novel; he has turned hockey in a metaphor for magic." Maclean's

Percival Leary was once the King of the Ice, one of hockey's greatest heroes. Now, in the South Grouse Nursing Home, where he shares a room with Edmund "Blue" Hermann, the antagonistic and alcoholic reporter who once chronicled his career, Leary looks back on his tumultuous life and times: his days at the boys' reformatory when he burned down a house; the four mad monks who first taught him to play hockey; and the time he executed the perfect "St. Louis Whirlygig" to score the winning goal in the 1919 Stanley Cup final.

Now all but forgotten, Leary is only a legend in his own mind until a high-powered advertising agency decides to feature him in a series of ginger ale commercials. With his male nurse, his son, and the irrepressible Blue, Leary sets off for Toronto on one last adventure as he revisits the scenes of his glorious life as King of the Ice.
The author of ten novels, Paul Quarrington was also a musician (most recently in the band Porkbelly Futures), an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, and an acclaimed non-fiction writer.Paul Quarrington's novel, Galveston, was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize; King Leary won the CBC's 2008 Canada Reads competition and the...
Title:King LearyFormat:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 8.44 × 5.57 × 0.67 inPublished:November 28, 2007Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385666012

ISBN - 13:9780385666015

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Canadian from more than the hockey I really enjoyed the book. It explores a lot of what we think makes up a certain ideal of Canada in a very personal way. Leary isn't a character that you're meant to fall in love with. Even his possible 'redemption' moment shows his faults. But he represents parts in all of us; the selfish, the loving but ignorant, the stubborn, the proud. His own story, and the stories of those in his life, make readers think about how bigger things like sexism and gender identity, aboriginal issues and colonization, alcohol abuse and mental health can all play a huge part in a game that we often use to define our Canadian culture. The humour and meandering style that Quarrington uses helps to strengthen Leary's voice, and makes the impact of the more serious issues underlying everything in the book all the more sudden and forceful.
Date published: 2017-06-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Kind of boring 2.5 stars Percival “King” Leary was a hockey superstar in the NHL in the early 20th century. He is now in a nursing home and has been asked to star in a ginger ale commercial with a young, current NHL star. In this book, King looks back on his life in hockey and with his family and friends. I think it was supposed to be funny (having won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour). Hmmmm, not for me. In fact, I found it kind of boring. Not necessarily because of the hockey. I don't watch hockey, anymore, but when I was younger I was a big fan. That being said, the parts I (eventually) found more interesting were more the memories of his family. But, not interesting enough for me to say I liked it, or even that I found it “o.k.”. Also, the end was a little odd, I thought.
Date published: 2013-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not funny but very perceptive. King Leary is an exploration of dementia. The book's narrator, Leary, an 80+ year old former hockey star, drifts in and out of the past, the present and consciousness as he plods towards his final exit. He is not very bright, certainly without self insight, and finally not a very pleasant human. Nonetheless, Quarrington does an excellent job of reviewing Leary's life through his mental meanderings. Hockey fans will find the book poignant. I don't, however, understand why the book is touted as humorous. It is sad.
Date published: 2009-12-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Stay Away This books was the 2008 Canada Reads winner. It should have been the Canada Reads something else winner. Not terribly long, simply terrible. The story dragged and was disjointed. I had no sympathy for any of the characters as they were all simply unlikable. Do yourself a favour and find something else, anything else to read and leave this one on the shelf.
Date published: 2008-11-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from avoid Unfortunately, I found this book to be boring, dull, and at times, annoying. The characters, although entertaining at times, are a little far-fetched. I also found the writing a little difficult to follow. Needless to say, I was heavily dissappointed.
Date published: 2008-07-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from King of the Read Not a book I would have picked up, without the Canada Reads recommendation, but I am glad that I did.
Date published: 2008-04-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not a Hockey Fan BUT Enjoyed the Book Contrary to the other reviewers, I really enjoyed this book. I picked it up dutifully, since I realized that I wasn't reading enough Canadian authors, and I ended up finding it to be a fun and memorable read. I found the language in it really colourful (such as "gormless Clifford" and "the Claire thing"). I also really liked his unusual cast of characters - especially the blind reformatory-school monk who could somehow coach, and Manny Oz, a poor kid portrayed ice-fishing for eels in Ottawa (?!). It was very funny, but there were also some touching and heartbreaking scenes. It was also fun to read a book that takes a historical look at Ottawa and Toronto - bringing new meaning to familiar places. So - if you think this book is only for hockey fans - you are wrong. Plus, now I know what a REAL hat trick is :).
Date published: 2008-03-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from It wasn't really about hockey and wasn't very interesting. This book grabbed me a bit at the first. King Leary, a hockey great from the 1920s is old and in a nursing home and isn't entirely lucid. We find out about his early life - which I found interesting - him playing hockey on the canal and going to a reformatory after setting someone's house on fire ( one of the only funny moments in the whole book for me). It is a story of him and his two "friends" Clay and Manny and their relationship over decades of hockey, boozing, women, and egos the size of houses. It just wasn't interesting. Those who don't like hockey shouldn't be afraid to read the book - it isn't about hockey. I wouldn't tell people not to read it but I'm not going to be recommending it. It was only short so it didn't waste too much of my time.
Date published: 2008-03-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Nothing to 'make mouths' at; should not be the CR-2008 winner! I had read Norapinephrine's review about King Leary a few weeks ago, and had decided to read it nevertheless, hoping that I would find something different to say about King Leary to balance out the comments on this site. Unfortunately, I was unable to find anything redeeming about it (although I did enjoy the beginning at least). My fear is that those not of Canadian origins are going to look at this book and say "Wow...Canada Reads chose a book about hockey as their winner...quelle surprise!" I had read 4 of the 5 Canada Reads books nominated, I don't think Leary deserves the award. (On a more suspicious note...I had noticed Bookstores storing up and displaying this title days before the winner was announced. This title alone! And on the morning the winner was made known, this book was already 30% off!. Not a critique about the book per se, but on the Canada Reads award itself.)
Date published: 2008-03-02

Read from the Book

A sad tale’s best for winter.I have one of sprites and goblins.— A Winter’s TaleChapter TwoI was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario — Bytown, as we say. The Ottawa Canal was practically in our backyard, and the reason I say practically is that we didn’t really have a backyard. There was this little square thing that was full of bricks, because my father was always planning to build something. I never did learn what the Jesus he meant to build, but he certainly had the bricks for it.I thought the canal was a beautiful thing. I spent so much time beside the water that it seemed to the young me that the canal had moods. Sometimes it would be whitecapped and rough, and I wouldn’t think that the wind was up and blowing over a storm, I’d think the water was angry. Or sometimes it would be gentle, with little pieces of sunlight bouncing on it, and I knew that the canal was happy and that if I went swimming the water would play on my body.But I loved her best when she froze.A few nights of the right weather, and I’m talking thirty below, teethaching and nose-falling-off-type weather, and the canal would grow about a foot of ice. Hard as marble, and just as smooth. Strong and true. It gives me the goose bumps just thinking about it. Lookee there, see how goosebumped I am right now.I can’t remember lacing on blades for the first time. Likewise with hockey. I’ve got no idea when I first heard of, saw, or played the game of hockey. Some years back, Clay Clinton and I were invited to one of those hockey schools for a seminar. It couldn’t have been that long back, come to think, because what we were discussing was something like The Development of Hockey in North America, which means we were trying to figure out a way of beating the Russians. So there was me there, and Clay (who was drunk much of the weekend, and occupied with the pursuit of somebody’s floozy wife), and this young coach from Minnesota.And the lad from Minn. starts talking about the origins of hockey. He went on and on about soccer and lacrosse, English foot soldiers playing baggataway with the Indians, some Scandinavian entertainment called bandy. I bit my tongue, but the truth of the matter is, I never knew that hockey originated. I figured it was just always there, like the moon.Now, there were three of us Leary lads, Francis, Lloyd, and myself, Percival. We all early on got reputations in our neighbourhood as good hockey players. Even though I was the youngest and the smallest, I was rated the best. Little Leary, they called me, a puff of Irish wind.So one day — and this I remember like yesterday, better even, because what the hell happened yesterday other than Blue Hermann tweaking Mrs. Ames’s enormous bub, eliciting a shriek that popped my eardrums — this strange young lad shows up at the canal.The strangest thing about him was the way he was dressed, namely, a full-length fur coat with a matching little cap. We just wore sweaters, one for every five degrees she dropped below freezing, and on this particular day I had on maybe six. This boy in the fur coat and matching cap stood by the snowbanks and watched us for almost half an hour, not saying a word. I was pretending to ignore the lad, but really I was studying him. He was fat, butnot the kind of fat that would get him called Fatty. Mostly what I noticed about him was his face, which was handsome as hell. The lad had gray eyes that seemed to have slivers of ice in them.I decided to impress him, don’t ask me why. The next time I got the puck I danced down the canal like I was alone. Then I made like Cyclone Taylor. I still loved Taylor even though he had, the year previous, abandoned the Ottawa Senators for the loathsome Renfrew Millionaires. As you may know, Cyclone claimed that he could score a goal skating backwards, and he did this against the Senators, and that’s what I did myself, turning around and sailing past the pointmen, slapping the rubber with my heaviest backhand. The little boy standing between the two piles of snow that was the goal — who had been pretending to be Rat Westwick of the Silver Seven — just covered his head and let the puck fly by.

Editorial Reviews

“A type of literary hat trick...most engaging…. [Quarrington’s] colourful, inventive language is addictive.” The Globe and Mail

“An extraordinary writer with a rare gift.” Timothy Findley