Posts Tagged ‘Bellevue Square’

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?

Naomi reviews Bellevue Square

November 14, 2017

What I love so much about readng the Giller books is that there are always surprises. I’m often reading books I hadn’t heard of before, books from authors I’ve never read before, and books I know very little about. Add the fact that the books have been carefully chosen by a handful of smart and interesting judges, and you can be in for some unexpected treats.

Bellevue Square was one of the books I knew very little about when I went into it. What I found was a clever, complex story that took me on endless twists and turns.

Bellevue Square tells the story of a woman (Jean) who hears from two different people that she has a doppelganager out there. She becomes obsessed with finding this woman who supposedly looks just like her, and starts hanging out at the park near Kensington Market. Here she meets several colourful characters, and starts canvassing them for their help in spotting her double.

You can look at yourself in pictures or even on video, but you still don’t have the experience others do of you in the world.

I really can’t say much more about the plot without giving things away, other than to say the story includes disappearing people, mental illness, parenting, a bookstore, and a literary festival in the woods.

I thought the writing was whip-smart, including the banter and dialogue between Jean and her children, giving us moments of normality amidst all the confusion. One small bone to pick would be that I wanted more from the husband; for someone so close to the protagonist, I found that he seemed too distant. But this could also be a symptom of how distracted Jean had become by her obsession with the doppelganger.

I remember standing in the mirror as a child, staring into my own eyeball. I lined one eye up against its reflection and shut the other. I saw a slippery black void but that’s where I was: in that void. My face was wrapped around muscle and bone. Before Ingrid, it was my face alone. Now I exist as myself only inside my own dark eye.

Torontonians should enjoy the setting of the story. Even I could picture myself sitting in the park watching the foot traffic go by in Kensington Market. I feel as though if I went there now, I might bump into Jimmy or Miriam handing out the milk.

Kensington Market’s energy was hustle too, plus bustle, a lot of movement right in front of your eyes, and a shudder or rattle behind it. Countercultural, but bloody and raw. The organic butcher beside a row of dry-goods shops offered, in one window, white-and-red animal skulls with bulbous dead eyes, and in the other, closely trimmed racks of lamb and venison filets, displayed overlapping each other like roofing tiles. Then some stranger rustles past with blood on his cheeks.

Torontonians wanted to get on with it, but they were generally courteous. if someone let you into a car lane, for instance, you were expected to wave with casual gratitude, like you expected it, but thank you anyway. Toronto’s panhandlers thank you when you give money, and also when you say “Sorry.” In fact, “Sorry, thank you,” may be the most common exchange between citizens. Toronto’s reputation when I lived outside it was that it was a steely, arrogant place without a heart, but now I see it likes outsiders and it draws on a deep spring of weirdness.

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. But really it’s hard to know for sure because this book is only the first of a trilogy.

There are certain problems that cannot be solved and one of these is the liar. Whether for strategic or emotional reasons, the liar who is convinced of the necessity of his lie will adapt the defence that he never lies. And a person who is trying to convice you that they are not lying could be lying about never lying…

This review was originally posted on my blog, Consumed by Ink. Please visit for further reading suggestions.


Kim reviews Bellevue Square

October 25, 2017

Kim’s second Giller short-listed book turned out to be a “zinger”.

It’s a totally compelling read, one that makes you question the narrator’s sanity (and perhaps even your own) as the storyline becomes increasingly more twisty and bent in on itself the further you get into the book. It’s fast-paced too, which can occasionally leave you feeling slightly disoriented, as if you’ve got lost in the market and can’t find an exit out.

Kim also found it hard to pigeon-hole…

Bellevue Square is one of those novels that starts off as one thing before it morphs into another. The opening chapters have all the hallmarks of a mystery thriller, but mid-way through it takes a dramatic turn and becomes a wonderful examination of mental illness, consciousness, identity and the blurring of lines between truth, reality and imagination.

But what is it about?

When the book opens we meet first person narrator Jean Mason, who is married with two children and runs a bookstore in downtown Toronto. One day one of her regular customers, Mr Ronan, questions her ability to change clothing and hairstyles in a matter of minutes. Jean, confused, wants to know what he’s talking about.

“You were in the market. Fifteen minutes ago. I saw you.”
“No. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t in any market.”
“Huh,” he said. He had a disagreeable expression on his face, a look halfway between fear and anger. He smiled with his teeth. “You were wearing grey slacks and a black top with little gold lines on it. I said hello. You said hello. Your hair was up to here!” He chopped at the base of his skull. “So, you have a twin, then.”
“I have a sister, but she’s older than me and we look nothing alike. […] And I’ve been here all morning.”

Jean’s continued denials make Mr Ronan angry and he becomes violent towards her. Later, he’s found dead in his apartment having hanged himself.

To read Kim’s review in full, please visit her blog, Reading Matters.

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