Author Archive

The 2018 Giller Prize Winner

November 21, 2018

Congratulations to Esi Edugyan whose novel Washington Black was named the 2018 Giller Prize winner!

As many of you may already know, the Shadow Giller jury chose Songs for the Cold of Heart by Eric DuPont as our winner. However, Washington Black was our second choice, so it’s lovely to see such a wonderful book take the prize. If you’re interested in finding out how we arrived at our decision, you can read about it here.

For more information and photos of the event, you can visit the Scotiabank Giller Prize website or the CBC news. You can hear an interview with Esi Edugyan after her win on CBC’s “q” here.

What the jurors had to say about Washington Black:How often history asks us to underestimate those trapped there. This remarkable novel imagines what happens when a black man escapes history’s inevitable clasp – in his case, in a hot air balloon no less. Washington Black, the hero of Esi Edugyan’s novel is born in the 1800s in Barbados with a quick mind, a curious eye, and a yearning for adventure. In conjuring Black’s vivid and complex world – as cruel empires begin to crumble and the frontiers of science open like astounding vistas – Edugyan has written a supremely engrossing novel about friendship and love and the way identity is sometimes a far more vital act of imagination than the age in which one lives.”

 

That’s the end of the Giller Prize season for another year. We hope you’ve enjoyed following our Shadow Giller proceedings, reviews and tweets over the past two months. We’ve had a brilliant time doing it and read some wonderful books in the process. 

Thanks so much for your support, and we’ll see you again next year!

 

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The 2018 Shadow Giller Winner

November 18, 2018

We are thrilled to reveal that the Shadow Giller winner for 2018 is:

Songs for the Cold of Heart by Eric DuPont

Congratulations to author Eric DuPont, translator Peter McCambridge and Publisher QC Fiction!

I think we were all won over by this amazing book with all its stories within stories and echos of itself. It’s a big book, but every sentence and every word entertains. The official Giller jury citation is as follows: “Once upon a time in Quebec there was a girl named Madeleine. A tiny red headed waif with only a suitcase in her possession steps off a train in a frozen village, and a strapping Quebec man falls head over heels in love with her strangeness. A baby is born from this union that is so big, it manages to kill both its parents in childbirth. As magnificent a work of irony and magic as the boldest works of Gabriel Garcí¬a Márquez, but with a wholly original sensibility that captures the marvellous obsessions of the Quebecois zeitgeist of the twentieth century. It is without any doubt, a tour de force. And the translation is as exquisite as a snowflake.

An excerpt from Marcie’s review: “Lost earrings and lost arrows. Trick knives and silver spoons. Snowstorms and air raids. Flapjacks and upside-down pineapple cake. Gold crosses and amber barrettes. Fireworks and torpedoes, gunshots and fisticuffs. Sugars and fevers. Eggs on roses and roses behind ears. Tenors and letters. Mary Tyler Moore and Leonard Cohen. The Thorn Birds and The Origins of Totalitarianism. Outdoor operas and bottled schnapps. Chihuahuas and zebras. Skyscrapers and caskets. Stuffed animals and smuggled paintings. Nativity scenes and restaurant chains. Emissaries and mirrors.

It’s not just a complete meal, it’s an entire menu.

An excerpt from Naomi’s review: “Songs for the Cold of Heart is made up of stories within stories. Stories that go back to the turn of the 20th century, stories that take place all over the world, stories that dazzle and shock – love, ambition, adventure, betrayal, tragedy, family, home – stories with echos and parallels running through them – teal coloured eyes, bass clef birthmarks, recurring names, paintings of the Virgin’s death, mustachioed Popes – and stories that entertain, each one the antidote to the last.

 

How did we choose our winner?

As per usual, each juror was given 100 points to disperse and these were sent to Mrs KfC, who acted as our independent adjudicator. The results were as follows:

Kim: Dupont-30, Edugyan-17, deWitt-18, Lim-25, Heti-10

Marcie: DuPont-25, Edugyan-22, deWitt-19, Lim-17, Heti-17

Naomi: DuPont-35, Edugyan-19, deWitt-18, Lim-14, Heti-14

Alison: DuPont-24, Edugyan-21, deWitt-21, Lim-17, Heti-17

 

A unanimous vote for Songs for the Cold of Heart – and it wasn’t even close. This is the first time since I have joined the jury that the results have been so clear-cut, with no need to discuss or negotiate.

Now we wait to see whether the real Giller Prize jury agree with us. They will name their official winner on Monday, 19 November. For specific timings, please visit the official website.

What do you think of our choice? Have you read Songs for the Cold of Heart, or do you plan to?

Three From the Shortlist #3

November 15, 2018

Kim reviews French Exit

The Badly Behaved:It’s quite a voyeurestic read. Frances is a brilliant creation: a badly behaved woman who is an expert at droll putdowns, an eccentric sociopath who takes no responsibility for her poor decision making and feels hard done by without reason.

The Page-Turning Pace:Loosely based around a series of set pieces, the book has a playful energy to it. And while nothing much really happens, it has a page turning quality because the reader wants to find out what outrageous thing Frances will do — or say — next and whether the trio will ever recover their financial standing.

The Conclusion: Visit Kim’s blog, Reading Matters, for the full review!

 

Marcie reviews Washington Black

The artist’s eye:The way Wash sees, light moves across a colour spectrum which is truly brilliant; it transforms his view – and, hence, readers’ sightlines – of waves and jellyfish, tears on a cheek and the wind across a snowscape. “For I observed now a wide, transparent green orb, pulsing, and beside it a yellow one, and then another and another, dozens of glistening suns flaring all about in the dark waters. […] It had been a burst of incandescence, fleeting, radiant, every punch of light like a note of music.”

The Power dynamics:It is a privileged man who can dispense advice like this: “Well, the main thing is to try not to die. I shall give you some advice on how to best bring that about.” Goff recognizes Wash’s gift and Wash recognizes how unlikely that is: most privileged men cannot see past Wash’s skin colour and visage.

The Conclusion: Visit Marcie’s blog, Buried in Print, for the full review!

 

Naomi reviews Motherhood

The Style:Hearing someone’s thoughts for pages at a time can start to feel claustrophobic – a whole book that dwells almost entirely on the narrator’s issues, insecurities, questions, anxieties. None of which lend themselves to easy answers. It can feel overwhelming (not to mention self-indulgent). At one point I was questioning my own decision to have kids!

On the other hand, I think a lot of people have these same questions and anxieties, and the thinking in this book is probably something many can relate to.

The Value:The subject matter or the structure of the novel may be up for debate, depending on your tastes and interests, but I think there is value in the author’s examination of society’s view of childless women (or women in general). The pressure on women to have children is still alive and well. We should not still be in this place – where a woman’s greatest value is her reproductive potential.

It seemed to me like all my worrying about not being a mother came down to this history – this implication that a woman is not an end in herself. She is a means to a man, who will grow up to be an end in himself, and do something in the world. While a woman is a passageway through which a man might come.

The Conclusion: Visit my blog, Consumed by Ink, for the full review!

 


We will be announcing our shadow winner on November 18th, along with links to our reviews of the shortlisted books. The real winner will be announced the evening of November 19th. Stay tuned!

 

Any hopes or predictions? 

 

Three From the Shortlist #2

November 8, 2018

Kim reviews Motherhood

The Subject:As you’d expect for a book with a philosophical bent, it explores lots of interesting ideas about what it is to be a mother (doing what you, as a woman, were supposedly put on earth to do, for example) as well as what it is to be woman of child-bearing age who chooses not to bear children (helping the planet by not adding to the world’s population, is just one theory posited).”

The Style:Written in direct first-person text, almost as if the author is trying to talk herself into — or perhaps out of — making a decision, it’s occasionally humorous and often illuminating, but mostly — and I hate to say this — it’s downright self-indulgent.”

The Conclusion: Visit Kim’s blog, Reading Matters, for the full review!

 

Marcie reviews An Ocean of Minutes 

The Conflict:One remarkable aspect of Thea Lim’s novel is her capacity to move beyond the clear-cut delineations of victim and perpetrator, which makes for a more intriguing and rewarding story.

Once one acknowledges that everyone has the capacity to receive and to wield injury, the question of responsibility is ever-more complex. There are no convenient labels, so conflicts are not characterized by blame and rage, rather a more delicate dance of atonement and forgiveness, which is more unsettling but, ultimately, more satisfying.”

The Genre:The time-travel element gives this novel a whiff of genre, which isn’t generally rewarded by Giller Prize juries. Sometimes a title sneaks into the longlist, like Stephen Price’s By Gaslight, Dan Vyleta’s The Quiet Twin and Clifford Jackman’s The Winter Family. Very occasionally to the shortlist, like Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. So it’s already unusual to see Thea Lim’s debut on the list; either the jurors are smitten, or they are committed to representing (even if not necessarily rewarding) genre writing.

The Conclusion: Visit Marcie’s blog, Buried in Print, for the full review!

 

Naomi reviews Washington Black

The Adventure:The story takes us from the heat of Barbados to the chill of the Arctic, from the salt wind of Nova Scotia to the drizzle of England and the deserts of Morocco. It begins as a desperate escape from slave hunters, and ends in an obsessive search for a man.

The Octopus:Since this book first came out, I have been captivated by the octopus on the cover. What is an octopus doing on the cover of a book about an escaped slave?

Well, let me tell you…

The Conclusion: Visit my blog, Consumed by Ink, for the full review!

 

Have you read any of these? Which ones tempt you?

Three From the Shortlist #1

November 1, 2018

I think I can safely say that we are all well underway with our reading, and the shortlisted reviews are starting to pop up. Here are three, one from each of the bloggers among us…

 

Kim reviews Washington Black

The Good:A dizzying page-turner that takes in scientific polar exploration, the windswept beaches of Nova Scotia, the aristocratic manor houses of 19th century London, the canals of Amsterdam and the deserts of Morocco, this is a true adventure story that brims with menace and tension and love.

The Flawed:But it’s not a perfect novel. There are paradigm shifts, which seem to come out of nowhere and are disorienting for the reader. Some of these shifts feel too far-fetched to be believable and this serves to ruin the perceived authenticity of Wash’s tale. And then, when Titch disappears from the narrative at about the half-way point, suddenly the heart of the story — the mysterious and intriguing relationship between him and Wash — is gone: it’s like taking a cake out of the oven too early so that it collapses.”

The Conclusion: Visit Kim’s blog, Reading Matters, for the full review!

 

Marcie reviews French Exit

The Ludicrous:Ludicrous and lugubrious, sorrow-soaked and snort-worthy: Patrick deWitt’s novel packs a wallop. You might bite your lip to hold in your laughter, but then consider chewing through it, just to taste the blood, the life beneath the surface of it all.

The Bewildering:It’s also one of those books from which you read lines to your companion and, then, discover, when you look up at them, that the thing that you are feeling is not the thing they are feeling. And, when it comes to describing what you are feeling, that’s when you realise that you’re not even sure what that is. But something you wanted to share.

The Conclusion: Visit Marcie’s blog, Buried in Print, for the full review!

 

Naomi reviews Songs for the Cold of Heart

The Storied:Songs for the Cold of Heart is made up of stories within stories. Stories that go back to the turn of the 20th century, stories that take place all over the world, stories that dazzle and shock – love, ambition, adventure, betrayal, tragedy, family, home – stories with echos and parallels running through them – teal coloured eyes, bass clef birthmarks, recurring names, paintings of the Virgin’s death, mustachioed Popes – and stories that entertain, each one the antidote to the last.”

The Surprising:This book is not a stranger to surprising, tragic and disturbing events.

The Conclusion: Visit my blog, Consumed by Ink, for the full review!

 

 

Have you read any of these? Do you plan to?

Five From the 2018 Longlist

October 21, 2018

While waiting for the shortlist reviews, here are some longlist goodies for you…

Zolitude by Paige Cooper

“Paige Cooper’s collection presses astute observations of real-life into a wad of putty, then stretches out the scenes, making them spare and strange, before she folds them over and squeezes them tightly in her fist.

Zolitude is named for a story about severance and a yearning to reconnect; throughout the collection, people are preoccupied with distance and intimacy, with the space between two people (or two states of being, or two versions of reality) taking on a peculiar significance.*

Whether along borders or perimeters, or inside chambers and shelters, Paige Cooper’s characters uncoil and recoil, stretch and retreat, always keeping readers at a distance, even when exposing their innermost dreams and fears.”

For the full review, visit Buried in Print.

 

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

“Jonny’s life story unfolds in a dark and confined space: short-term escapes into drugs and alcohol, even shorter-term hookups for cash or a quick release, and a simmering sense of futility and helplessness underneath it all. The world is the “grungy yellow of cigarette-stained fingers”, the rapids are “full of Lucky cans and severed hands and oak leaves that clogged our drain pipes” and there are hairs stuck to the bathtub’s sides and perimeter.

This is a messy and uncomfortable place to inhabit. “Yeah, an NDN home is like a dandelion: pretty but disposable, and imbued with a million little seeds that dissolve into wishes for little white hands that pluck.”

Home is at the core of this first-person narrative, not only because Jonny is coming of age, but because he has inherited the legacy of trauma perpetrated against generations of indigenous people, the historic and ongoing efforts to separate native peoples from their homelands – to isolate and eradicate individuals and cultures.”
For the full review, visit Buried in Print.
Something For Everyone by Lisa Moore

“One remarkable feature of Lisa Moore’s short story writing is her versatility.Sometimes her vocabulary is elevated (consider: koan, ferric, sculpin, recalcitrant, scabrous, and histrionic).

Sometimes her subject matter is banal.

With characters chewing their fish and chips on Signal Hill with their mouths full. (“Skywalk”, the final work in the collection, a novella.)

Or taking time to explain how they unload a dishwasher:

“A marriage is this: My husband likes the glasses with the glasses, the cups with the cups. Every morning I unload the dishwasher and put the cups and the glasses together. He comes down and moves the cups.” (“Visitation”)”

For the full review, visit Buried in Print.

 

Buried in Print: “Themes from both of her previous novels resurface in Vi, and yet the work feels distinct because readers accompany Vi through a number of changing circumstances, from Saigon to Montreal, from Suzhou to Boston, and through the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Her emotional attachments change dramatically as well, as she and her mother and siblings (three brothers, she is the youngest and only girl) escape Vietnam during the war while her father remains behind. In the years to come, as she grows and explores her own needs and desires (which frequently conflict with the choices her ancestors would need/desire her to make), readers observe her heart expanding and contracting through devotion and loss.”

Consumed by Ink: “Growing up, from all around her, Vi has been taking in messages about what it means to be a woman. She’s expected to serve, to please, and to mold her life to accommodate others.

Like other Vietnamese families, we put all the dishes out in the middle of the table at the same time, with one exception. My mother served my father separately, in order to save the best for him: the soft-shelled crab overflowing with eggs, the perfectly shaped sticks of fried potatoes, the most tender chicory leaves. It went without saying that the fifty seeds of the sugar apple were removed, and its sweet white flesh held out to him like an offering.”

 

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

“What a physically beautiful book this is, with its white jacket and red edging. I hate to take it back to the library. There are snippets of beauty between the covers, too – but like the long bright summer days and the cold dark winters of the north, the moments of beauty and light are balanced out with times of darkness.

In fact, the darkness in the story may get more than its share of time.

The book is about a girl growing up in Nunavut in the 1970s. Some of her experiences are familiar to me – playing outside with friends, making up games. But much of it is not. There is a lot of abuse in this book. It is hard to read about, but I imagine much harder to experience and live with.

What keeps you alive in crisis can kill you once you are free.”

To read the full review, visit Consumed by Ink.

 

Have you read any of these? Do any of them tempt you?

2018 Giller Prize Shortlist

October 3, 2018

And the finalists are…

Patrick deWitt for his novel French Exit, published by House of Anansi Press

Eric Dupont for his novel Songs for the Cold of Heart, translated by Peter McCambridge, published by QC Fiction, an imprint of Baraka Books

Esi Edugyan for her novel Washington Black, published by Patrick Crean Editions, an imprint of HarperCollins Canada

Sheila Heti for her novel Motherhood, published by Knopf Canada

Thea Lim for her novel An Ocean of Minutes, published by Viking Canada

 

The Shadow Giller jury will now swing into full reading and reviewing mode as we try to determine who we think should be the winner. We will announce our chosen title a few days before the official winner is named on Monday 19 November.

In the meantime, if you are on Twitter do follow us @ShadowGiller. Please use the hashtag #ShadowGiller

Happy Reading!

2018 Giller Prize Longlist – We’re Back for More!

September 19, 2018

Hello friends,

The 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist was announced on September 17th. So it’s time for the Shadow Jury to spend the next couple of months reading, reviewing and discussing Giller books!

In case you’ve not followed along before, let me quickly explain how the Shadow Jury works.

There are four of us on the jury this year: Toronto-based Alison Gzowski, who is an editor at The Globe and Mail; Kim Forrester, who blogs at Reading Matters and lives in London, UK; Marcie McCauley, also in Toronto, who blogs at Buried in Print; and myself, Naomi MacKinnon, who blogs at Consumed by Ink and lives in Nova Scotia.

Our late chairman Kevin began chairing a “shadow jury” in 1995 when he was publisher of the Calgary Herald  — you can find the story of its history here. When he died two years ago, we decided to honour his memory by continuing to run the Shadow Giller jury and now, with the blessing of Kevin’s widow, Sheila, we continue to use Kevin’s blog to promote and champion the Canadian literature he loved so much every Giller Prize season.

Over the next couple of months we will post excerpts of reviews by Kim, Marcie and myself (with links back to our own blogs). Alison may also contribute a few guest posts as well as being actively involved in the comments.

In the long-established tradition of the Shadow Giller Jury, we will announce our winner a few days in advance of the official Giller Prize announcement on November 19th.

Shadow Giller logo

In the meantime, here’s the longlist:

Please do add comments and chime in with your own thoughts on the titles as we review them. Taking part in the Shadow Giller is made all the better when booklovers from across the world jump in and take part. We’ll be delighted and honoured to have you along…

The 2017 Giller Prize Winner

November 21, 2017

Congratulations to Michael Redhill whose novel Bellevue Square was named the winner of the 2017 Giller Prize last night.

And, as many of you probably already know, Bellevue Square was also the winner of the 2017 Shadow Giller. If you’re interested in finding out how we came to our decision, you can read about it here.

To see a replay of the Giller event, as well as a video of Michael Redhill’s speech visit CBC Books.

 

That’s the end of the Giller Prize season for another year. We hope you’ve enjoyed following our Shadow Giller proceedings, reviews and tweets over the past two months. We’ve had a brilliant time doing it and read some wonderful books in the process. Thanks so much for your support! See you next year.

The 2017 Shadow Giller Winner

November 19, 2017

We are thrilled to reveal that the winner of the Shadow Giller is:

Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill

Congratulations to Michael Redhill and publisher Penguin Random House!

There are so many aspects to Bellevue Square that it is hard to put it into just one category or type of book. I think the complexity of the story and the twists and turns knocked us all off our feet. The official Giller Prize jury citation is as follows: “To borrow a line from Michael Redhill’s beautiful Bellevue Square, “I do subtlety in other areas of my life.” So let’s look past the complex literary wonders of this book, the doppelgangers and bifurcated brains and alternate selves, the explorations of family, community, mental health, and literary life. Let’s stay straightforward, and tell you that beyond the mysterious elements, this novel is warm, and funny, and smart. Let’s celebrate that it is, simply, a pleasure to read.

An excerpt from Kim’s review:This totally isn’t the type of book I expected when I picked it up. It turned out to be such a surprising read, so immersive and unsettling, that it has lingered in my mind more than two weeks after finishing it. Redhill has crafted a zinger of a novel, one that is well structured and well plotted, the kind of book you need to read again if only to try to understand how he’s done it.”

An excerpt from Naomi’s review: “I found Bellevue Square to be a page-turner; interesting, complicated, stimulating, creepy, and unique. At times I was confused, at other times I thought I knew exactly what was going on… only to find out I was wrong… probably.”

 

How did we choose our winner?

As per usual, each juror was given 100 points to disperse and these were sent to Mrs KfC, who acted as our independent adjudicator. The results were as follows:

Kim – Redhill 30, Robinson 25, Winters 20, O’Loughlin 15, Cusk 10

Naomi – Redhill 24, Robinson, 28, Winters 26, O’Loughlin 17, Cusk 5

Alison – Redhill 26, Robinson 22, Winters 18, O’Loughlin 14, Cusk 20

Total: Redhill 80, Robinson 75, Winters 64, O’Loughlin 46, Cusk 35

Although Redhill came out ahead by 5 points, Robinson was my first choice (by 2 points) and Kim and Alison’s second choice, so there was some discussion on how strongly I felt about Robinson’s book over Redhill’s. Well, I had such a hard time choosing between three of the books (all wonderful, but very different) that I was happy to see any of the three win. Therefore, we went with the original winner.

Now we wait to see whether the Real Giller Prize jury agree with us. They will name their official winner on Monday, 20 November. For specific timings, please visit the official website.

What do you think of our choice? Have you read Bellevue Square, or do you plan to?


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