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The 2010 Globe 100: Canadian fiction Add to ...

Titles are listed in alphabetical order. To read the Globe and Mail's review of each book, click on the title.

ANNABEL By Kathleen Winter (Anansi)

The riddle of gender has engaged Kathleen Winter for some time, so her choice of subject matter for her first novel, Annabel, seems a natural progression: Wayne, a.k.a. Annabel, is a hermaphrodite. In the hands of a lesser writer, this subject matter might have become maudlin or clichéd. But even through the myriad complications Wayne finds in negotiating his world, Winter locates the line between the universal and the personal and walks it with skill and empathy. Christine Fischer Guy

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CITIES OF REFUGE By Michael Helm (McClelland & Stewart)

The most obvious refugees are those desperate souls who approach the borders of prosperous countries in search of physical sanctuary. There are others, however - well-fed, safely housed people - who might not have the abject bearing of the dispossessed, but nonetheless find themselves spiritually homeless. Michael Helm's powerful third novel, set in Toronto, explores what happens when these two types of exiles come together. Stephen Amidon

COOL WATER By Dianne Warren (HarperCollins)

In her Governor-General's Award-winning novel, Dianne Warren takes up the challenge of portraying a present-day prairie town, depicting Juliet, Sask., as a metaphor for the changing agrarian West. A mixture of archetypes and surprises, the characters in Cool Water endure and prevail, embodying the resilience that persists in the West, where determination partners hard work and frugality, as opposed to luck. Aritha van Herk

EVERY LOST COUNTRY By Steven Heighton (Knopf Canada)

Like Joseph Conrad, Steven Heighton takes the bare bones of an event occurring on the borderlines of most of our geographical, political and moral experiences, and refashions it into a novel that offers readers more than "the big ideas and beautiful language" that The New York Times praised in his previous novel, Afterlands. Heighton's ideas are once again big and difficult, and his language continues to grow in beauty. T.F. Rigelhof

FAUNA By Alissa York (Random House Canada)

The Don Valley ravine is both setting and character in Alissa York's Fauna, which depicts a quite different Toronto than the urban landscape of subways, cafes, offices and boutiques. Guy Howell's auto-wrecker's yard in the ravine becomes a sanctuary for both humans and animals. This rich novel is layered with astonishing detail, with every location vividly evoked and every action a visceral experience. J.C. Sutcliffe

GREEDY LITTLE EYES By Billie Livingston (Vintage Canada)

It only takes a few sentences' worth of the first story in Billie Livingston's collection to trigger that wonderful feeling that comes when you know you're about to have a really cool reading experience. Although the families in these tales are dysfunctional - the mothers are mad, the uncles are funny, the brothers carry bitter secrets around with them like filthy security blankets - their tales are recounted with an unjudging gaze and nifty original humour. Diane Baker Mason

I AM A JAPANESE WRITER By Dany Laferrière, translated by David Homel (Douglas & McIntyre)

I am a Japanese Writer is a novel in 67 short chapters about a book the author has not yet written. In fact, the book in the reader's hand exists solely as a title in the book itself, a title Laferrière's publisher liked enough to pay him 10,000 euros to write. It's a wonderful, existential conceit: The book we're reading is being written as we read it. Michael Redhill

ILUSTRADO By Miguel Syjuco (Hamish Hamilton Canada)

Ilustrado, the first novel by young Filipino writer Miguel Syjuco, may well prove a literary bridge-builder between the formally innovative and the reader-friendly. It is an extraordinary debut, at once flashy and substantial, brightly charming and quietly resistant to its own wattage. With this dazzling first foray, Syjuco suggests how his new Asia, his new identity, must "look" on the page and between the covers: unexpected and fresh, quite unlike anything that has been seen before. Charles Foran

PRACTICAL JEAN By Trevor Cole (McClelland & Stewart)

Cole's biting and black comedy of middle-class mores gone murderously wrong combines diamond-cut social satire with thoughtful contemplations of friendship's burdens, meaning and purpose. Jean Vale Horemarsh is confronted with an existential crisis after caring for her mother unto the old woman's ravaging death from cancer. This up-close encounter with unmitigated suffering leaves Jean determined to help other people, even healthy and happy people, avoid suffering by hastening their deaths. Randy Boyagoda

ROOM By Emma Donoghue (HarperCollins)

This novel of startling authenticity won the Rogers Writers' Trst Fiction Prize. It opens quietlly, almost sweetly, as a boy named Jack celebrates his fifth birthday with his unnamed mother. The two seem uncommonly close - Jack still breastfeeds - but otherwise, nothing seems out of the ordinary. Gradually, however, it becomes clear that they are being held prisoner in a small room by a menacing figure known as Old Nick. Everything changes when they manage to break free, and they are forced cope with a vast, clamorous new world. Stephen Amidon

SANCTUARY LINE By Jane Urquhart (McClelland & Stewart)

Urquhart's haunting novel evokes the sense of a lost world. It describes the golden era of a prosperous Irish-Canadian farm family and the crisis that brings about its demise. Her work is powered by the dense symbolism, intense emotion and preoccupation with nature that marks the romantics. Sanctuary Line is a book lover's novel, weaving together children's poetry, 19th-century American fiction and family myths into a unique literary pastiche. Donna Bailey Nurse

SANDRA BECK By John Lavery (Anansi)

John Lavery is adept at linguistic gymnastics and uses them to excellent effect. For him, the interface between English and French is not only bridgeable, it's positively joyful. Bilingualism informs Sandra Beck as a playground of ideas and allusions. But Lavery is equally focused on character and creates a warm and intimate portrait of a people taking stock of their lives in the wake of upheaval. Michel Basilières

THE BEAUTY OF HUMANITY MOVEMENT By Camilla Gibb (Doubleday Canada)

The setting of Gibb's novel is Hanoi, and she has done her research into Vietnamese political upheavals and customs. The main character is an elderly man named Hung, who has scratched out a living through all the years of war and deprivation by making the noodle-laden broth called pho. Gibb ties the strands of narrative together in the same way that Hung makes his pho - with care, with gentleness and reality. Candace Fertile

THE DEATH OF DONNA WHALEN By Michael Winter (Hamish Hamilton Canada)

In his foreword to this work of "documentary fiction," Michael Winter describes how the accumulating voices surrounding Donna Whalen's murder - voices he accessed via court transcripts and other legal documents - captivated him; first as a reader and then as the story's re-teller. The characters inhabiting this found narrative burgeoned with such distinctive and resonant personalities that not even the legalistic tedium of courtroom testimony or the inevitable incoherence of wiretapped conversation could tamp them down. Lynn Coady

THE IMPERFECTIONISTS By Tom Rachman (Dial Press)

Tom Rachman's immensely readable first book is about a failing English-language newspaper in Rome. Rachman's novel-in-stories takes place in 2007, and the problems that have beset the newspaper industry in general - an aging readership, shrinking ad revenues, the Internet - have brought this international paper, once a launching pad for hotshot American journos, to the brink of being shut down. Filled with gorgeous writing, jolts of insight and narrative surprises that feel both unexpected and inevitable. Kevin Chong

THE MATTER WITH MORRIS By David Bergen (HarperCollins/Phyllis Bruce)

Morris Schutt used to be a successful newspaper columnist in Winnipeg, a man with a Jaguar and a sexy psychiatrist wife, two daughters, a grandchild and a son, Martin. But after a fight with Morris, Martin enlisted in the army, was sent to Afghanistan and died, the victim of friendly fire. His death sends Morris into a tailspin; this, and whether he can pull out of it, is the subject of this immaculately written, trenchantly honest, hugely compelling novel. Steven Hayward

THE PROMISE OF RAIN By Donna Milner (McArthur & Company)

In The Promise of Rain, Milner explores war and family secrets. She alternates between the horrors experienced by young Canadian Howard Coulter in Hong Kong during the Second World War, and then the problems developing years later, in 1962, when Howard's wife Lucy dies and his children are crushed and bewildered by the loss of their mother in mysterious circumstances. Candace Fertile

THE SENTIMENTALISTS By Johanna Skibsrud (Gaspereau)

The winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize is a sombre story about the emotional ghosts of war and the unreliable nature of memory. The one place the young narrator calls home is a house in Casablanca, Ont., belonging to Henry, whose son fought and died alongside her father, Napoleon, in the Vietnam war. Napoleon is the novel's most finely drawn character, a gruff but tenderhearted drinker who never fully recovered from an incident during the war. Zoe Whittall

THE SKY IS FALLING By Caroline Adderson (Thomas Allen)

The Sky is Falling is a return to Jane Z.'s sophomore year of living dangerously as a member of a non-violent, anti-nuclear direct action group, in 1983-84, and her later reflections on the paranoia and terror of that time. Adderson is very funny, but her wit is wry, cleverly controlled, and her novel is entertaining and insightful, and it has the most memorable final chapter of anything I've read in years. T.F. Rigelhof

THE TRUTH ABOUT DELILAH BLUE By Tish Cohen (HarperCollins)

Both of Tish Cohen's previous novels ( Town House and Inside Out Girl) are in development as films, and The Truth About Delilah Blue is sure to follow. She is clearly familiar with the cinema's propulsive rhythms, and has an almost Hitchcockian sense of how to uncoil audience guts and play double dutch with them. Delilah Blue is a purely domestic drama, with no wild-bird invasions or psychotic moteliers in sight, though there may as well be. Cynthia Macdonald

THE WEED THAT STRINGS THE HANGMAN'S BAG By Alan Bradley (Doubleday Canada)

Determined 11-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce is the centre of this murder mystery, with a voice so engaging and amusing that it's easy to overlook her unlikely depth and breadth of knowledge as she pursues the killer of TV star puppeteer Rupert Porson. The setting is a perfectly detailed and credible English village in the Agatha Christie manner, inhabited by people you can believe in and sympathize with. H.J. Kirchhoff

THIS CAKE IS FOR THE PARTY By Sarah Selecky (Thomas Allen)

This collection explores sites of emotional and physical volatility, but Selecky sinks her teeth into something far more powerful than the violence of loss: She skillfully wrests devastation from its customary gloom of lamentation and regret, and bares its overwhelming beauty. Each of the 10 sharply cinched tales within This Cake pivots around this powerful inversion; and as Selecky demonstrates, the blight of antitheses - the party that is not one - is most often the stuff of celebration. Lisa Foad

UNDER HEAVEN By Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada)

Under Heaven takes us to eighth-century Tang Dynasty China, shifted a quarter-turn to become the fictional kingdom of Kitai. The novel is virtually everything a reader could want in a book: a thrilling adventure, a love story, a coming-of-age tale, a military chronicle, a court-intrigue drama, a tragedy and on and on. It is a sumptuous feast of storytelling, a beautifully written tale with a beating, breaking heart at its core that will have readers in tears by its final pages. Robert Wiersema

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