It seems like only yesterday that the thirteen books that made up this year’s ScotiaBank Giller Prize longlist were announced. Today we’re down to the final five. Haven’t read them yet? Don’t worry, you’ve still got time. The ultimate winner of the prize won’t be announced until 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 shortlist.
Going 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)
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)
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)
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 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)
Have you read any of the five finalists for the Scotiabank Giller Prize? Which was your favorite? Comment below and let us know which titles to read, and which to avoid.