The Scotiabank Giller Prize 2013 Longlist

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It’s Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist time! Last week the 13 novels that made the longlist were finally revealed and we’ve compiled each of their full descriptions for you below on one easy to read page. The 6 titles that make the shortlist cut will be announced on October 8th and the ultimate winner of the prize will be announced on November 5th.

Look for this page to be updated with links to each of our reviews as we continue to make our way through the longlist.


Going_Home_AgainGoing Home Again
By Dennis Bock

After two acclaimed historical novels, one of Canada’s most celebrated young writers now gives us the vibrant, contemporary story of a man studying the suddenly confusing shape his life has taken, and why, and what his responsibilities–as a husband, a father, a brother, and an uncle–truly are.

Charlie Bellerose leads a seminomadic existence, traveling widely to manage the language academies he has established in different countries. After separating, somewhat amicably, from his wife, he moves from Madrid back to his native Canada to set up a new school, and for the first time he forges a meaningful relationship with his brother, who’s going through a vicious divorce. Charlie’s able to make a fresh start in Toronto but longs for his twelve-year-old daughter, whom he sees only via Skype and the occasional overseas visit. After a chance encounter with a girlfriend from his university days, a woman now happily married and with children of her own, he works through a series of memories-including a particularly painful one they share-as he reflects on questions of family, home, fatherhood, and love. But two tragic events (one long past, the other very much in the present) finally threaten to destroy everything he’s ever believed in.  (from the hardcover edition)


The_OrendaThe Orenda
By Joseph Boyden

A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family, and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees that the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.

Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling among the Huron, and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.

As these three souls dance with each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux.  (from the hardcover edition)


HellgoingHellgoing
By Lynn Coady

With astonishing range and depth, Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist Lynn Coady gives us eight unforgettable new stories, each one of them grabbing our attention from the first line and resonating long after the last.A young nun charged with talking an anorexic out of her religious fanaticism toys with the thin distance between practicality and blasphemy. A strange bond between a teacher and a schoolgirl takes on ever deeper, and stranger, shapes as the years progress. A bride-to-be with a penchant for nocturnal bondage can’t seem to stop bashing herself up in the light of day.Equally adept at capturing the foibles and obsessions of men and of women, compassionate in her humour yet never missing an opportunity to make her characters squirm, fascinated as much by faithlessness as by faith, Lynn Coady is quite possibly the writer who best captures what it is to be human at this particular moment in our history.  (from the hardcover edition)


Cataract_CityCataract City
By Craig Davidson

Owen and Duncan are childhood friends who’ve grown up in picturesque Niagara Falls–known to them by the grittier name Cataract City. As the two know well, there’s more to the bordertown than meets the eye: behind the gaudy storefronts and sidewalk vendors, past the hawkers of tourist T-shirts and cheap souvenirs live the real people who scrape together a living by toiling at the Bisk, the local cookie factory. And then there are the truly desperate, those who find themselves drawn to the borderline and a world of dog-racing, bare-knuckle fighting, and night-time smuggling.

Owen and Duncan think they are different: both dream of escape, a longing made more urgent by a near-death incident in childhood that sealed their bond. But in adulthood their paths diverge, and as Duncan, the less privileged, falls deep into the town’s underworld, he and Owen become reluctant adversaries at opposite ends of the law. At stake is not only survival and escape, but a lifelong friendship that can only be broken at an unthinkable price.  (from the hardcover edition)


How_To_Get_Along_With_WomenHow To Get Along With Women
By Elisabeth De Mariaffi

A sharply original debut collection, How To Get Along With Women showcases Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s keen eye and inventive voice. Infused with a close and present danger, these stories tighten the knot around power, identity, and sexuality, and draw the reader into the pivotal moments where—for better or for worse—we see ourselves for what we truly are.

Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s fiction has been published in The New Quarterly, The Fiddlehead, This Magazine, and The Puritan, and is taught as part of the short story curriculum at the University of Waterloo. A former host of the popular Pivot at the Press Club reading series, Elisabeth currently lives in St. John’s. How To Get Along With Women is her first book.  (From the hardcover edition)


ExtraordinaryExtraordinary
By David Gilmour

Over the course of one Saturday night, a man and his half-sister meet at her request to spend the evening preparing for her assisted death. They drink and reminisce fondly, sadly, amusingly about their lives and especially her children, both of whom have led dramatic and profoundly different lives. Extraordinary is a gentle consideration of assisted suicide, but it is also a story about siblings–about how brothers and sisters turn out so differently; about how little, in fact, turns out the way we expect. In the end, this is a novel about the extraordinary business of being alive, and it may well be David Gilmour’s very best work of fiction to date.  (From the hardcover edition)


Emancipation_DayEmancipation Day
By Wayne Grady

How far would a son go to belong? And how far would a father go to protect him?

With his curly black hair and his wicked grin, everyone swoons and thinks of Frank Sinatra when Navy musician Jackson Lewis takes the stage. It’s World War II, and while stationed in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Jack meets the well-heeled, romantic Vivian Clift, a local girl who has never stepped off the Rock and is desperate to see the world. They marry against Vivian’s family’s wishes–hard to say what it is, but there’s something about Jack that they just don’t like–and as the war draws to a close, the new couple travels to Windsor to meet Jack’s family.

But when Vivian meets Jack’s mother and brother, everything she thought she knew about her new husband gets called into question. They don’t live in the dream home that Jack depicted, they all look different from one another–and different from anyone Vivian has ever seen–and after weeks of waiting to meet Jack’s father, William Henry, he never materializes.

Steeped in jazz and big-band music, spanning pre- and post-war Windsor-Detroit, St. John’s, Newfoundland, and 1950s Toronto, this is an arresting, heartwrenching novel about fathers and sons, love and sacrifice, race relations and a time in our history when the world was on the cusp of momentous change.  (From the hardcover edition)


October_1970October 1970
By Louis Hamelin
Translated from the French by Wayne Grady

October 1970. Two kidnappings. One dead. A crisis unlike anything the country had ever seen — here is the story behind history . . .Thirty years after the October Crisis, Sam Nihilo, a freelance writer whose career is in a slump, is drawn to the conspiracy theories that have proliferated in the wake of the events. While investigating the death of one of the FLQ hostages, Nihilo sees his life consumed by an inquiry that leads him further into a flurry of facts, both known and newly discovered. Soon, secret agents, corrupt police officers, politicians, and former terrorists of the Front de Libération du Québec form a mysterious constellation around him, and at the centre lies a complicated and dangerous truth.In the tradition of Don DeLillo’s Libra, October 1970 is a thrilling fictional account of the events that shaped one of the most volatile moments in recent history.  (From the hardcover edition)


The_Son_Of_A_Certain_WomanThe Son Of A Certain Woman
By Wayne Johnston

Here comes Percy Joyce.

From one of Canada’s most acclaimed, beloved storytellers: The Son of a Certain Woman is Wayne Johnston’s funniest, sexiest novel yet, controversial in its issues, wise, generous and then some in its depiction of humanity.

Percy Joyce, born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in the fifties is an outsider from childhood, set apart by a congenital disfigurement. Taunted and bullied, he is also isolated by his intelligence and wit, and his unique circumstances: an unbaptized boy raised by a single mother in a fiercely Catholic society. Soon on the cusp of teenagehood, Percy is filled with yearning, wild with hormones, and longing for what he can’t have–wanting to be let in…and let out. At the top of his wish list is his disturbingly alluring mother, Penelope, whose sex appeal fairly leaps off the page. Everyone in St. John’s lusts after her–including her sister-in-law, Medina; their paying boarder, the local chemistry teacher, Pops MacDougal; and…Percy.

Percy, Penelope, and Pops live in the Mount, home of the city’s Catholic schools and most of its clerics, none of whom are overly fond of the scandalous Joyces despite the seemingly benign protection of the Archbishop of Newfoundland himself, whose chief goal is to bring “little Percy Joyce” into the bosom of the Church by whatever means necessary. In pursuit of that goal, Brother McHugh, head of Percy’s school, sets out to uncover the truth behind what he senses to be the complicated relationships of the Joyce household. And indeed there are dark secrets to be kept hidden: Pops is in love with Penelope, but Penelope and Medina are also in love–an illegal relationship: if caught, they will be sent to the Mental, and Percy, already an outcast of society, will be left without a family.

The Son of a Certain Woman brilliantly mixes sorrow and laughter as it builds toward an unforgettable ending. Will Pops marry Penelope? Will Penelope and Medina be found out? Will Percy be lured into the Church? It is a reminder of the pain of being an outsider; of the sustaining power of love and the destructive power of hate; and of the human will to triumph.  (From the hardcover edition)


The_Woman_UpstairsThe Woman Upstairs
By Claire Messud

Nora Eldridge, a 37-year-old elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is on the verge of disappearing. Having abandoned her desire to be an artist, she has become the “woman upstairs,” a reliable friend and tidy neighbour always on the fringe of others’ achievements. Then into her classroom walks a new pupil, Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale. He and his parents–dashing Skandar, a half-Muslim Professor of Ethical History born in Beirut, and Sirena, an effortlessly glamorous Italian artist–have come to America for Skandar to teach at Harvard.

But one afternoon, Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies who punch, push and call him a “terrorist,” and Nora is quickly drawn deep into the complex world of the Shahid family. Soon she finds herself falling in love with them, separately and together. Nora’s happiness explodes her boundaries–until Sirena’s own ambition leads to a shattering betrayal.

Written with intimacy and piercing emotion, this urgently dispatched story of obsession and artistic fulfillment explores the thrill–and the devastating cost–of giving in to one’s passions. The Woman Upstairs is a masterly story of America today, of being a woman and of the exhilarations of love.  (From the hardcover edition)


CaughtCaught
By Lisa Moore

Internationally acclaimed author Lisa Moore offers us a remarkable new novel about a man who escapes from prison to embark upon one of the most ambitious pot-smuggling adventures ever attempted.Here are bravado and betrayal, bad weather and seas, love, undercover agents, the collusion of governments, unbridled ambition, innocence and the loss thereof, and many, many bales of marijuana. Here, too, is the seeming invincibility of youth and all the folly that it allows.Caught is an exuberant, relentlessly suspenseful, and utterly unique novel, and promises to be the astonishing Lisa Moore’s most accomplished work to date.  (From the hardcover edition)


The_Crooked_MaidThe Crooked Maid
By Dan Vyletta

Mid-summer, 1948. Two strangers, Anna Beer and young Robert Seidel, meet on a train as they return to Vienna, where life is just resuming after the upheavals of war. Men who were conscripted into the German army are filtering back home, including Anna’ s estranged husband, Dr. Anton Beer, who was held prisoner in a brutal Russian camp. But when Anna returns to their old apartment, she finds another man living there and her husband missing.At his own house, Robert is greeted by a young maid with a deformed spine. The household is in disarray, with his mother addicted to narcotics and his stepfather, an industrialist and former Party member, hospitalized after a mysterious attack.Determined to rebuild their lives, Anna and Robert each begin a dogged search for answers in a world where repression is the order of the day. Before long, they are reunited as spectators at a criminal trial set to deliver judgment on Austria’ s Nazi crimes.In The Crooked Maid, Dan Vyleta conjures up a city haunted by its sins and a people caught between the needs of the present and debts owed to the past.  (From the hardcover edition)


Minister_Without_PortfolioMinister Without Portfolio
By Michael Winter

An emotionally resonant novel that confronts the deeply personal effects of war by a writer at the height of his power

Henry Hayward has been living life the way he’s wanted—working hard, playing hard—but when his girlfriend tells him she’s leaving, it destroys him. In a quest to recover, he joins an army-affiliated contracting crew that takes him overseas to a Canadian base in Afghanistan. In the company of friends, he begins to mend: having laughs and being rebellious, blithely unaware of all he’s left behind.

But everything changes during a roadside incursion when a routine patrol turns fatal. And Henry, who survives, knows in his heart that he is responsible.

Upon returning home, tormented by guilt, he resolves to take care of the people and places around him: Martha Groves, whose boyfriend was killed in Afghanistan; his friends and neighbours; and a summer home that needs revitalizing. Henry tries his best to seek roots after a rootless life, collecting around himself a “community of a hundred people” for whom he cares deeply and is responsible. But he hasn’t factored in family history and social infidelity—and Martha has a revelation of her own that may change everything.

Minister Without Portfolio illuminates the power and violence of self-creation. It asks: To whom are we beholden? Who do we adopt—and who couldn’t we live without? It is an emotionally affecting work, filled with truths about the frailties and miracles of human nature, by a writer of exceptional talent.  (From the hardcover edition)


Have you read any of the thirteen novels on the Scotiabank Giller Award 2013 Longlist? Which was your favorite? Comment below and let us know which titles to read, and which to avoid.

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.