Here is the shortlist for the 2013 Giller Prize — and, yes, the biggest surprise is that Joseph Boyden has not made the list with The Orenda. More on that later, but let’s look at the list:
Caught, by Lisa Moore. A combination of a crime story and character study, Lisa Moore’s novel did not land well with me — but I did note in my review that prize juries like her better than I do. Slaney is a minor drug-running criminal whom we meet escaping from prison in Springhill, Nova Scotia, ready to seek his next score. He heads across Canada to meet his co-smuggler and set up try number two. My problem was that author Moore never figured out whether she was telling a story or developing a character — the jury obviously disagreed with that assessment.
Cataract City, by Craig Davidson. A review of this one is next up on the blog, in a couple of days. Cataract City has three central “characters” — Duncan Diggs, a kid who moved to the wrong side of the law; his schoolyard pal, Owen, who opted to join the police; and the city of Niagara Falls, which supplies the title for the novel. The “Falls” may be what made Niagara famous, but the city has become a trap for those who live there. Dunc opts for one way out, Owe chooses another — and Niagara Falls has its pull on both. Stay tuned for more expanded thoughts.
Hellgoing, by Lynn Coady. The Giller always wants to include a short story collection and Coady’s Hellgoing is this year’s representative. Coady is no stranger to the Giller shortlist — her novel, The Antagonist, made the 2011 list. I have read this collection and the review will be up in a week. Unlike Alice Munro with her character studies, Coady is what I would call an “episodic” short story writer — creating a set of circumstances and then letting her characters handle them. As a preview to my thoughts, I found every story readable — alas, I also did not find very many “memorable”.
The Crooked Maid, by Dan Vyleta. This will be next on my reading agenda. Vyleta made the 2011 Rogers shortlist with The Quiet Twin, a novel set in pre-WWII Vienna. The German-Canadian author returns to Vienna and the same characters with this novel, but it is set a decade later. The reviews that I have read say it does stand alone and does not have to be regarded as a sequel — since I have not read The Quiet Twin, I will be testing that thesis.
Going Home Again, by Dennis Bock. Bock’s previous novels (The Ash Garden and The Communist’s Daughter) have been historical war fiction, but this one has a tighter focus — two brothers come together after a couple of decades apart, their failed marriages supplying the reuniting force. I’d say this is the biggest surprise of a generally surprising shortlist — reviews that I have read of the novel have been generally positive, but not really enthusiastic.
While I have two reviews yet to be posted, I only have Vyleta and Bock yet to read, so the entire shortlist should be reviewed here within two weeks. And I’ll be adding The Orenda into the my reading quickly — like most Giller followers, I felt it was a certainty for the shortlist and had been “saving” reading it while I looked at some other “lesser” contenders (two of which did make the shortlist :-)). I can only assume that the jury felt Boyden is already well established and they chose to highlight some other authors.
My fellow Shadow Giller jurors are going to have some reading to do in the next few weeks. We will arrange to get books to Trevor at The Mookse and the Gripes and Kimbofo at Reading Matters. I will post the opening paras of their reviews as they go up, with links to the full review. And Alison will be commenting with her thoughts on all our blogs.
The short period between long and short lists means that Giller attention doesn’t really start until the short list is up. As always, your comments are most welcome.