Here is the 2012 Giller Prize shortlist. Reviews of all but Will Ferguson’s 419 are already posted on KfC — click on the title to go to the review.
Inside, by Alix Ohlin : A Montreal psychologist comes across a failed suicide attempt while cross-country skiing on Mount Royal, setting in motion a plot that has her exploring that individual’s life, reviewing her own failed marriage and recalling a young patient. Ohlin develops each of the three story lines independently leaving the reader to fill in the spaces in-between.
The Imposter Bride, by Nancy Richler: The novel opens with an “arranged” wedding in Montreal: the Jewish refugee from wartime Europe who has been rejected at first sight by the man who was paid to marry her so she could get into the country is marrying his brother instead. There is an uninvited guest at the wedding: a relative of the dead woman whose identity the bride adopted when she came across the body and took with her a diary and a strange rock as well as her identity papers. The novel isn’t about that past, rather it is the story of what happens as those elements become known to the participants — all told from the perspective of the child whom she abandons at the age of three months when her story is discovered.
Ru, by Kim Thúy: Translated from the French, Ru won last year’s Governor-General’s award in the original version. Told in vignettes, it is the story of a child who escaped Viet Nam with her parents following the war and ended up in Montreal. The narrator is now an adult — the short novel is both a stream of memories of that escape and the story of how she came to maturity in Canada.
Whirl Away, by Russell Wangersky: The only short story collection to make the list, I said in my review that four were excellent, four good and four not to my taste. Most of the stories are set in Wangersky’s Newfoundland, although my personal favorite is centred on an amusement park just outside my own hometown of Calgary. For the most part, Wangersky’s stories feature ordinary people who have to come to terms with a dramatic event, often violent, that suddenly changes their very routine lives.
419, by Will Ferguson: The only finalist not yet reviewed here (reviews from both KfC and Shadow juror Alison should be posted within a week). The jacket cover promises: “A novel both epic in its sweep and intimate in its portrayal of human endurance. A car tumbles through darkness and down a snowy ravine. A woman without a name walks out of a dust storm in sub-Saharan Africa. And in the seething heat of Lagos City, a criminal cartel scours the internet looking for victims.”
I’ve read 10 of the 13 longlist titles (and will eventually post reviews on them all). Richler and Onstad would have made my shortlist — I’m less sure about Thúy and Wangersky. I didn’t have a particular favorite on the longlist — overall, I thought it was weaker than in recent years and I think the shortlist reflects that as well. Stay tuned for reviews from Kimbofo and Trevor (and comments and guest reviews from Alison) — I will be posting excerpts here when they review the shortlist titles. My prediction is that the Shadow Jury is going to require some discussion in deciding who gets the nod for the 2012 Shadow Giller winner.