Two weeks ago the long list of nominees for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize was announced. Perhaps surprisingly, no major Canadian authors were included in the list of 12 books by 12 authors. Many of the nominated books came from relatively unknown authors from smaller publishers. So who did make the nominees list for the Giller, Canada’s most notable annual literary award? And which title would you most like to read this fall? (The one that has caught my eye is André Alexis’ ‘Fifteen Dogs’ and its intriguing premise.)
The Scotiabank Giller Prize short list will be released October 5, and the winner announced on November 10.
Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis: When Hermes and Apollo make a bet about human happiness, they grant 15 dogs staying at a vet clinic the power of human consciousness. The dogs instantly become divided between those who prefer their old dog ways and those who want to take advantage of their newfound increased intelligence. What unfolds is a powerful story about what it means to have consciousness, and the good and the bad that comes with it.
Arvida by Samuel Archibald,
translated by Donald Winkler:
Like a Proust-obsessed Cormac McCarthy, Samuel Archibald’s portrait of his hometown is filled with innocent children and wild beasts, attempted murder and ritual mutilation, haunted houses and road trips to nowhere, bad men and mysterious women. Gothic, fantastical, and incandescent, filled with stories of everyday wonder and terror, longing and love, Arvida explores the line which separates memory from story, and heralds the arrival of an important new voice.
If I Fall I Die by Michael Christie: Will’s mother has kept him inside all of his life. But when he finally ventures outside, he befriends a boy named Jonah and discovers the world is bigger, better – but scarier – than the world of just inside. When a local boy goes missing, Will’s world is turned upside down yet again. An exploration of family, friendship and letting go.
Outline by Rachel Cusk: Rachel Cusk’s Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and stark, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing during one oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. She meets other visiting writers for dinner and discourse. She goes swimming in the Ionian Sea with her neighbor from the plane. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves: their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss.
Under Major Domo Minor by Patrick DeWitt: Lucien (Lucy) Minor is the resident odd duck in the hamlet of Bury. Friendless and loveless, young and aimless, Lucy is a compulsive liar, a sickly weakling in a town famous for begetting brutish giants. Then Lucy accepts employment assisting the majordomo of the remote, foreboding Castle Von Aux. While tending to his new post as undermajordomo, he soon discovers the place harbours many dark secrets, not least of which is the whereabouts of the castle’s master, Baron Von Aux. In the local village, he also encounters thieves, madmen, aristocrats and Klara, a delicate beauty whose love he must compete for with the exceptionally handsome partisan soldier, Adolphus.
Close to Hugh by Marina Endicott: With chapter titles that play off the protagonist’s first name, from “If It Makes Hugh Happy” to “I Want to be Loved by Hugh,” Close to Hugh follows one week in the life of Hugh Argylle, an art gallery owner who has just taken a terrible fall from a ladder. What unfolds are the complicated relationships surrounding him. Several of his friends have children going off to college and Endicott weaves together these two turning points — becoming an adult and becoming old — together to look at the meaning of modern life. At turns hilarious and heartbreaking.
A Beauty by Connie Gault: In 1930s Saskatchewan, Elana Huhtala is looking for any excuse to get out of town. And when a stranger shows up at the local dance, she jumps at the chance to leave with him. What unfolds is a compelling cross-country journey that teaches Elana more than she ever imagined about her country, her fellow Canadians and herself.
All True Not a Lie in It by Alix Hawley: A fictionalized biography of legendary folk hero Daniel Boone. The book follows Boone from his life as a young Quaker living in Pennsylvania through to his exploration the American wilderness and subsequent capture by the Shawnee. A thrilling debut from a former CBC Short Story Prize finalist and Knopf New Face of Fiction 2015.
The Winter Family by Clifford Jackman: Tracing a gang of ruthless outlaws from its birth during the American Civil War to a final bloody showdown in the Territory of Oklahoma, The Winter Family is a hyperkinetic Western noir and a full-on assault to the senses.
Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill: From the author of Lullabies for Little Criminals and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night comes a compelling collection of short stories filled with quirky characters and captivating descriptions of worlds both real and imagined.
Martin John by Anakana Schofield: Martin John sits beside you on the train. Can he see that look on your face? He needs to see that look in your eyes, the surprise of his touch upon your leg and your repugnance. Despite his work’s distractions, his evil flatmate’s enmity, his worn-out mother’s admonishments, his own rules and routines, nothing can diminish his determination to touch – and to repel. Martin John is a testament to Anakana Schofield’s skill and audacity. With a Beckettian grasp of the loops and circuits of a molester’s mind, Schofield’s novel is a brilliant exploration of a marginal character, but not a rare character. Martin John is the kind of character many women have experienced, but whom few of us have understood.
Confidence by Russell Smith: In this collection of short stories there are ecstasy-taking PhD students, financial traders desperate for husbands, violent and immovable tenants, seedy massage parlours, infestations of rabid raccoons, experimental filmmakers who record every second of their waking lives, and mommy-bloggers who publish insults directed at their partners. Whether in private clubs, crowded restaurants, psychiatric wards, or your own living room, everyone is keeping a secret.
(Descriptions from publisher notes)