Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments – the long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale – is one of nine novels to make the Scotiabank Giller Prize long list. Three story collections also made the list. The long list was announced in St. John’s Tuesday by 2018 prize winner Esi Edugyan. The Giller has the largest purse of any fiction prize in Canada, with $100,000 going to the winner.
It was a particularly good day for Atwood and The Testaments: The novel was also named on Tuesday morning as one of six on the short list for Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize, which Atwood won in 2000 for The Blind Assassin, and for which she has been nominated four times, including for The Handmaid’s Tale. (Atwood won the Giller in 1996 for Alias Grace.) Destined to be the biggest book of the fall, The Testaments goes on sale Sept. 10, with the British launch event set to be broadcast around the world.
Fellow past Giller winner André Alexis is also nominated for a sequel of sorts. Days by Moonlight (Coach House Books) is the fourth instalment in the author’s “quincunx” of novels that includes 2015 champion Fifteen Dogs. (The books are stand-alone works but thematically linked.)
David Bezmozgis earns his third nomination in as many books for his story collection Immigrant City (HarperCollins Publishers), which treads the author’s trademark territory of immigration and identity. Past longlistees Michael Christie, Michael Crummey and Steven Price also made the list. Christie’s Greenwood (McClelland & Stewart, Sept. 24) is a century-traversing econovel that takes its narrative structure from the age rings of a tree. Crummey draws inspiration from a true story for The Innocents (Doubleday Canada), a tale of siblings orphaned in an isolated Newfoundland cove. Price (whose inclusion on the list was announced by his wife, Giller laureate Esi Edugyan), is recognized for Lampedusa (McClelland & Stewart), the 1950s-set story of Giuseppe Tomasi, prince of Lampedusa, as he tries to complete his only, now classic, novel.
Alix Ohlin scores a second nomination for the sister- and motherhood drama Dual Citizens (House of Anansi), after her novel Inside was short listed in 2012.
Three of the longlisted books are critically praised debuts. Zalika Reid-Benta’s linked story collection, Frying Plantain (House of Anansi), follows Jamaican-Canadian Kara through childhood and adolescence as she straddles two cultures. Past Griffin Poetry Prize nominee Ian Williams, who has also won awards for his short stories, is recognized for his debut novel, Reproduction (Random House Canada). And Megan Gail Coles, also known as a playwright and short-fiction writer, earns a nomination for her first novel, Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club (House of Anansi).
Adam Foulds and K.D. Miller complete the list. While each has a body of critically acclaimed work to their name, both are making their Giller debut. Foulds’s Dream Sequence is an unsettling story of fanaticism and fame; Miller’s Late Breaking is a collection of linked stories inspired by the work of Alex Colville. Both are published by Windsor, Ont., indie Biblioasis.
The jury characterized the long list as an affirmation that, “Canadian fiction in 2019 is as confident in its exploration and interrogation of the local as it is curious and voracious in its engagement with the world beyond our borders.” The books, they added, “speak to the distinctive vitality of Canadian writing now.”
Past winners Sean Michaels, M.G. Vassanji and Lynn Coady – each with a new novel scheduled for publication this month – did not make the long list. Neither did two-time finalist Emma Donoghue (Room, Wonder), whose new novel, Akin, is released Tuesday. Anakana Schofield and Mona Awad – each shortlisted for their previous novels – both published well-received new work in 2019 but are absent from this list.
The jurors are Randy Boyagoda, Aminatta Forna, Aleksandar Hemon, Donna Bailey Nurse, and Jose Teodoro. They considered 117 books.
The short list will be announced on Sept. 30, and the winner will be announced at a televised gala on Nov. 18. Shortlisted authors receive $10,000 each and the winner receives a total of $100,000. There is no cash award for being longlisted.
Expand your mind and build your reading list with the Books newsletter. Sign up today.