Official 2010 Giller Prize shortlist

The official list announced today:

The Matter with Morris, by David Bergen

Light Lifting, by Alexander MacLeod

This Cake Is for the Party, by Sarah Selecky

Annabel, by Kathleen Winter (link includes a guest post here from the author)

The Sentimentalists, by Johanna Skibsrud

All but The Sentimentalists have been reviewed here — clicking on the title will take you to the review. Alas, my fellow Shadow Giller judge Trevor has not read any of the five since none are available yet in the United States — we have ordered the books for him and you can look forward to reviews from him as well in the next few weeks. Getting either of us to review The Sentimentalists may be a challenge — it is out of stock at both Indigo and Amazon, but we will try to chase it down somewhere (if you happen to be a bookseller with a couple of copies, please let me know at kevin(at)belvedere1(dot)com).

I don’t think I will be the only one surprised at the list. I thought Jane Urquhart’s Sanctuary Line was a certainty and the positive reviews internationally (and my own enthusiasm) for Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists made it a contender in my mind. Regular visitors here will know that I found The Matter with Morris lacking — I should acknowledge that I was also not that keen on David Bergen’s Giller-winning The Time In Between so perhaps it is simply a matter that the author and I just don’t connect.

My speculation would be that this is very much an “author’s” shortlist, reflecting the presence of authors Ali Smith and Claire Messud on the three-person jury. In my experience, author judges often have a “tilt” towards debut writers or those who have been overlooked in the past. The two short story collections (Light Lifting and This Cake Is for the Party) fit that mold; Annabel is a first novel and The Sentimentalists may be Skibsrud’s third book but she has received little attention (including for this book which has been out since last October).

Yes, I think there was a better shortlist possible, but I think there are some very good books on this list. And if you disagree with my grumpy assessment of a couple of the contenders, please don’t hesitate to correct me in the comments.

(Needless to say my entry in the Official “Pick the Giller Shortlist” contest is not going to be a winner. Sigh.)

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8 Responses to “Official 2010 Giller Prize shortlist”

  1. Shelley Says:

    Let’s hear it for looking at the overlooked!

  2. Crake Says:

    None of the books I was rooting for (The Imperfectionists, Sanctuary Line, Curiosity, Player One) made the shortlist. :(

  3. alison Says:

    Interesting point about author juries.
    I was surprised by the shortlist but at least two books I was cheering for made it. Light Lifting and Annabel. Glad to see them on the list, they both deserve it

  4. KevinfromCanada Says:

    shelley: The problem with the overlooked is that two of the five books cannot be bought and another has a 3-5 week delay. Good luck to the publishers in getting copies available on time.

    Crake: I had your first two on my list, so I was surprised as well. I can’t say that I don’t welcome the controversy, however.

  5. bookermt Says:

    Kevin I have just received my copy of The sentamentalists and I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve got further in. From the first few pages I would wildly guess that this would be the choice of Ali Smith.

  6. KevinfromCanada Says:

    bookermt: You are in an exclusive crowd if you have a copy of The Sentimentalists — mine is due to arrive today. I am ashamed to admit it, but our Toronto Shadow Juror (Alison) had to scoop up all the available copies from Chapters in Canada’s largest city so that the Shadow Jury could read it. It is great that independent publishers are recognized on this year’s shortlist, but it is going to take some good work by printers before readers can actually enjoy them.

    Your comment about Ali Smith is also interesting — I think the two short story collections on the shortlist are probably also a reflection of her tastes. I don’t have a problem with that as I far prefer an idiosyncratic list chosen by authors than I do one from peripheral readers. Having said that, I think the Giller longlist probably has more worthwhile books on it that the shortlist does.

  7. RickP Says:

    Kevin,

    I have to admit being frustrated by the Giller process. The time lapse between the longlist and shortlist almost makes debate and discussion on the longlist irrelevant as even you the Shadow Giller Jury has difficulty getting the books for awhile.

    Even as I write this, getting a copy of The Sentimentalists seems difficult.

    It appears the Giller process could be a lot better thought out.

  8. KevinfromCanada Says:

    RickP: I do think if the Giller is going to have a longlist (and in their early years they did not) they should announce it a couple of weeks earlier — leaving only 15 days between long and short is not useful to either readers or publishers.

    I am more sympathetic to the separation between shortlist and final announcement. The Sentamentalists was released by a small press in October last year — you cannot expect them to make the economic investment of printing thousands of copies hoping they will make the list. Even Light Lifting, which appeared in September, required a second printing — Indigo had not ordered copies for their stores until the shortlist was out and the publisher had to go through many hoops to get copies available. Canada is a small market and I am afraid we have to put up with disruptions like this as part of the process.

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