The official list announced today:
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.)