On Tuesday, The Scotiabank Giller Prize jury announced a long list of 16 titles, plus one Readers’ Choice selection chosen by Internet voters.
The Free World, by David Bezmozgis (HarperCollins) This novel about three generations of Russian Jews en route to the “free world” unspools in a voice as whimsical and wry and trippingly light as a sidewalk musician’s. Bezmozgis draws us in the same way a consummate busker attracts his audience: with deceptive ease and unavoidable power.
The Meagre Tarmac, by Clarke Blaise (Biblioasis) In his 10th book of short fiction, Blaise addresses himself to India and Indian immigrants in North America. What holds these linked tales together is his mastery of the short story, his ability to give us a whole personality and the sensuous particularity of lived experience in a handful of pages.
The Antagonist, by Lynn Coady (Anansi) Reviewed today .
The Beggar’s Garden, by Michael Christie (HarperCollins) At its best, Michael Christie’s collection of stories about the lonely, the parentless, the widowed and other lives gone wrong or stale features clear prose, transparent yet dense with understanding, never swanning on lyricism when lucidity will do.
The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt (Anansi) Also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, this powerful, compelling riff on the western follows outlaws Eli and Charlie as they wend their way toward San Francisco through the boomtowns and detritus of the gold rush.on a commission to kill a prospector.
Extensions, by Myrna Dey (NeWest Press) This year, the prize added a Readers’ Choice, and this debut novel is it. A mystery story that spans time and culture and geography, it features a detective charmingly named Arabella Dryvynsides.
Half-Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan (Thomas Allen) Reviewed today .
The Little Shadows, by Marina Endicott (Doubleday Canada) A big novel set in the world of vaudeville in 1912. Not yet published: to be reviewed.
Better Living Through Plastic Explosives, by Zsuzsi Gartner (Hamish Hamilton Canada) Zsuzsi Gartner’s story collection is funny ha ha and funny disturbing. Her Vancouver is wild and weird, volatile and violent, a backdrop for celestial and terrestrial abductions and body parts stashed in trash bags.
Solitaria, by Genni Gunn (Signature Editions) The accidental discovery of a body on the Italian Adriatic rocks the Santoro family in this darkly compelling , multi-generational saga. Especially strong in its evocation of a poor childhood in Mussolini’s Italy.
Into the Heart of the Country, by Pauline Holdstock (HarperCollins) Exploring the relationship between the English fur traders in Churchill, Man., and the native women on whom they relied on for survival, this is a heartbreakingly poetic and densely detailed glimpse into the complex role played by women in Canada’s fur-trade culture.
A World Elsewhere, by Wayne Johnston (Knopf Canada) Set in the Gilded Age, late 19th-century America and St. John’s, Wayne Johnson’s novel features the misadventures of a drunken wit and a wealthy ne’er-do-well. Johnson’s penchant for wordplay, newfoundland humour and Shakespearean comedy are on full display.
The Return, by Dany Laferrière, translated by David Homel (Douglas & McIntyre) A young man who fled Papa Doc’s Haiti plans his return 33 years later. Not yet published: to be reviewed.
Monoceros, by Suzette Mayr (Coach House) This imaginative, quirky and emotionally devastating novels set at a Calgary Catholic high school, begins with the narration of a boy about to commit suicide, followed by the stories and reactions of students, parents and staff affected by his death.
The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje (McClelland & Stewart) This tale of an 11-year-old Ceylonese boy’s ocean journey toward England offers the best pleasures of Ondaatje’s writing: musical prose, up-tempo; absurd, almost surreal dialogue; an admiration for craftsmanship; sumptuous evocations of sensual delight.
A Good Man, by Guy Vanderhaeghe (McClelland & Stewart) Finale of trilogy about the last days of the Wild West in Canada and the U.S.. Not yet published: to be reviewed Sept. 17.
Touch, by Alexi Zentner (Knopf Canada) This tale of three generations of a pioneering family in a boomtown gone bust is also full of witches and singing dogs, tenderness and violence, and evokes superbly a mythic northern wilderness.