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globe 100

Whirl Away Stories by Russell WangerskyHandout

The Globe's Books team is sent thousands of books every year: novels and poetry, mysteries and histories, memoirs and coffee-table books, erotica, exotica, graphic novels, self-published books, books sophisticated and crude, even textbooks. From this rich array we select only the most promising for reviews - and then only those that wowed our professional readers for our annual 100 list. Herewith, the fiction titles reviewers couldn't put down, couldn't stop talking about, and insist you stock up on, too.

The Winter Palace

By Eva Stachniak,

Doubleday Canada

Eva Stachniak sets her historical epic in the Winter Palace, in St. Petersburg, Russia, starring Catherine the Great and her predecessor, Elizabeth, in the 18th century. The Palace is a setting, a character and a symbol, and Stachniak lays out in riveting detail how life is lived there, from the lowest seamstress to the most powerful courtesan. -- Jane Smiley

Indian Horse

By Richard Wagamese, Douglas & McIntyre,

In Richard Wagamese's novel, Saul Indian Horse introduces himself in the first line of his "memoir": Anishinabeg, of the Fish clan, from the shores of the Winnipeg River. But it soon becomes clear that this pastoral and traditional sense of himself has not come easily, that he has had to fight numerous battles to achieve self-knowledge and self-acceptance. -- Jane Smiley

Dr. Brinkley's Tower

By Robert Hough,


John Romulus Brinkley, born poor in 1885 Appalachia, made a fortune by claiming to cure impotence by implanting goat glands into men. In the 1930s, Mexico let him build a 50,000-watt "border blaster," and the construction of this massive radio transmitter provides the backdrop for Robert Hough's hilarious novel. -- Steven Hayward

The Juliet Stories

By Carrie Snyder,


The Juliet Stories is a well-crafted and imaginative novel-in-stories that explores and reflects on the impact of a few monumental years in the life of the book's namesake. It combines straight-ahead realism with fractured, dream-like prose, in a successful exploration of the merits and pitfalls of family life. -- Zoe Whittall

Whirl Away

By Russell Wangersky,

Thomas Allen

Russell Wangersky delves stealthily into disquieting corners of the domestic, his stories dissecting lives as they fracture, lives much like the roller coaster at the centre of McNally's Fair, an exciting and popular ride gleaming with fresh paint, but about to collapse from hidden rust and broken bolts. -- Mark Anthony Jarman

The Imposter Bride

By Nancy Richler,


Nancy Richler's elegant, ambitious and accomplished novel zigzags through time and space, Europe and Palestine, and a harrowing century of family history, but it is rooted firmly in Montreal, in the child of a Holocaust survivor who is seeking knowledge of her missing mother. -- Donna Bailey Nurse


By Will Ferguson,


In Will Ferguson's deeply ironic politico-philosophical, Scotiabank-Giller Prize-winning thriller, Laura is the grief-stricken daughter of a retired Alberta teacher who emptied bank accounts, remortgaged the family home and maxed out credit cards after being trolled, snared, and ruined by a Nigerian e-mail scam. -- T.F. Rigelhof

Everybody Has Everything

By Katrina Onstad,


In Katrina Onstad's ambitious, assured, gripping novel, Ana and James, a 40-ish professional couple, are settling into a life without children when their friends Marcus and Sarah are in a car accident, leaving Ana and James to care for their two-year-old son.  --Zoe Whittall


By Alix Ohlin,


We begin in 1996, when Grace, a Montreal psychotherapist, interrupts Tug's attempt to hang himself. One of Grace's clients is Annie, a pathological schoolgirl. Then it's 2006, and we're in Iqaluit with Mitch, Grace's ex-husband. The book keeps returning to these people and places, a fragmentation that opens Inside outward.  -- T. F. Rigelhof

Magnified World

By Grace O'Connell,

Random House Canada

Maggie's mother drowned herself in the Don River, the pockets of her wool overcoat filled with raw zircon stones from the family's New Age shop. Now Maggie is suffering mysterious blackouts, eventually treated at a residence for the troubled bereaved, where O'Connell delves into the riddle of Maggie's wounded family. -- Jim Bartley

Above All Things

By Tanis Rideout,

McClelland & Stewart

More than 30 years before Edmund Hillary summited Everest, Englishman George Mallory attempted it, but died mysteriously. This gripping novel adds new insight into Mallory's motivations. The adventure narrative is intertwined with a day in the life of Ruth Mallory, George's wife, as she waits for word of his fate. -- Claire Cameron

One Good Hustle

By Billie Livingston,

Random House Canada

Sammie Bell is a tough little nut with an alcoholic mum and an ex-convict father, a couple of professional con artists. She moves in with her friend Jill's strait-laced Christian family, but longs for her parents and their drifting, grifting life, though she she does learn to appreciate her foster parents. -- Diane Baker Mason

The Emperor of Paris

By C. S. Richardson,

Doubleday Canada

If you love finely crafted sentences and spare, elegant prose; if you love charming characters and a tender, affecting story; if you love books and Paris and boulangeries, you will love this novel. This beautiful story captures the way decades of events, both inconsequential and catastrophic, result in the meeting of one man, one woman. -- Sandra Gulland


By Marjorie Celona,

Hamish Hamilton Canada

In her stunning debut, the sometimes sad, sometimes comic picaresque tale of a foundling raised in foster care on Vancouver Island, Marjorie Celona has created a world so rich and full that every line seems to confirm something that has already happened. Her prose has an inevitable, ineluctable quality, cohesion twinned with the unexpected and amazing. -- Sara O'Leary


By Rawi Hage,


Fly, the narrator , is a child of a circus trapeze artist who ends up driving taxi in an unnamed city that could be Montreal or New York. Hage's third novel is both his funniest and his most serious, featuring freshness, lyricism, boldness, emotional restraint, intellectual depth, historical sense, political subversiveness and uncompromising compassion. -- T. F. Rigelhof


By Emma Donoghue,


Emma Donoghue's errant characters hop the pond and leave the fold. They goldmine and graverob, transgress and transform in these 14 historical fictions set in England, Canada and America. They are, for the most part, real people: Each story comes with a postscript describing its source and what happens to the characters. -- Jessica Grant

The Magic of Saida

By M. G. Vassanji,

Doubleday Canada

M. G. Vassanji continues his ongoing exploration of history and its lingering effects on the present in this story of Kamal Punja, a well-off, late-middle-aged doctor in Edmonton, who returns to his birthplace on the coast of Tanzania in search of the Saida of the title, whom he knew as a child. -- Robert J. Wiersema

The Purchase

By Linda Spalding,

McClelland & Stewart

This eerily compelling novel (inspired by Spalding's own family history) charts the life of an 18th-century Quaker. Forced out of his community, he resettles in Virginiar, where land is virtually free but black people are not. Frontier adventure meets plantation romance meets slave narrative, to haunting effect in this Governor-General's fiction award winner. -- Donna Bailey Nurse

Dear Life

By Alice Munro,


Dear Life proves yet again that Alice Munro is a very great writer indeed, and that to enter the world of her fiction is immensely pleasurable. Most of the stories could be called love stories, which is only to say that love – romantic, familial, often "inappropriate" – is one of the engines that drive the plots. -- Francine Prose

The World

By Bill Gaston,

Hamish Hamilton Canada

Fifty-one-year-old retired shop teacher Stuart loses everything after he accidentally burns down his uninsured house. But the story is not depressing – anything but. Stuart's disaster is recounted with affection and without so much as a pinch of melodrama, and the realism is as spot-on as a Ken Danby print. -- Diane Baker Mason

All Men are Liars

By Alberto Manguel,


Author Alejandro Bevilacqua turns up dead in Madrid. A journalist is trying to piece Bevilacqua's life together, gathering possibly unreliable statements. Also: A lover of Bevilacqua's sneaked his masterpiece into publication without his knowledge, and prompting him to flee. Textured, pleasing, well worth reading. -- Stephen Smith

Mad Hope

By Heather Birrell,

Coach House

In this collection, Heather Birrell explores characters whose reasonable expectations of the world have been devastated by sudden death or other tragedies, leaving them yearning for alleviation of grief, pain or regret. Birrell's exceptional gift for narrative achieves a seemingly effortless originality and accuracy. -- Kelli Deeth

The Strange Truth About Us

A Novel of Absence,

by M.A.C. Farrant,


This "novel" is a collection of prose fragments, snippets, speculations and meditations, much like those enticing and elusive particles of which quantum physicists are so fond. It is both an acknowledgment of and an antidote to all the uncertainty we must shoulder in our age of anxiety and absence. Delightful and disturbing. -- Diane Schoemperlen