…The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton’s Victorian-style tale of a complicated nineteenth century murder mystery/conspiracy, set in the gold-mining country of western New Zealand. My full review of the 800-plus page novel is here.
It is the second major prize win for The Luminaries which copped the Booker Prize last month. Catton’s novel defeated a very strong field in this latest contest:
What Catton’s G-G win has certainly done is put another log on the fire of just what is going on with juries, particularly the Giller, in this year’s Canadian literary prize season. Despite her Booker win, Catton did not even make the Giller longlist — indeed, of the five books on the G-G shortlist only Boyden found any Giller recognition at all — and The Orenda was gone when the shortlist was announced.
The final fuel will be added next week with the Rogers Writers’ Trust winner — neither Catton nor Boyden are on the shortlist, so there will be no new data for either of those titles. Lynn Coady’s Giller-winning story collection, Hellgoing, is there, as is her fellow short-listed colleague, Lisa Moore, for Caught. Those two are joined by Colin McAdam’s A Beautiful Truth from the G-G and two titles that did not make either the Giller or G-G lists: The Eliot Girls, by Krista Bridge and A Bird’s Eye, by Cary Fagan.
I have speculated in comments that the politics of the Penguin/Random House merger and its effect on Canadian publishing could be one explanation for the widely varying lists. All five of the G-G finalists came from Penguin/Random House imprints. Three of the five Giller finalists did — but the surprise winner was from House of Anansi, Canada’s leading independent. Of the Writers’ Trust five, only A Beautiful Truth comes from a Penguin/Random House imprint — perhaps an indication that writers do not think much of the consolidation of Canada’s publishing business.
For what it is worth, as a reader here is what my ranking of the various titles I have read would be: 1. The Orenda 2. The Crooked Maid, by Dan Vyleta 3. The Luminaries. While all three have historical settings, that is about all they have in common — except for being very good books and well worth putting on your Christmas list or considering as a gift for reader friends whom you know.