This morning at McGill University, the twelve titles making up the 2014 Giller Prize Longlist were revealed. The Scotiabank Giller Prize is well known as one of the top literary prizes in Canada. Previous winners include Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje and Mordecai Richler. In addition to the fame and prestigious, the award comes with a monetary prize, previously awarding the winner $50,000 but this year making the significant leap to $100,000.
The following authors and their books were chosen from out of 161 titles, submitted by 63 different publishers.
Arjun Basu for his novel Waiting for the Man, published by ECW Press
The story of a 35-year old advertising copywriter who begins seeing and hearing a mysterious man. When the voice finally tells him to go “West” he does, becoming a media sensation as he searches for The Man. Waiting for the Man is a compelling and viscerally emotional story about the struggle to find something more in life.
David Bezmogis for his novel The Betrayers, published by HarperCollins Canada
The Betrayers follows a day in the life of Baruch Kotler, a disgraced Israeli politician. Unhappy with his stance on the West Bank settlements, his political opponents expose his affair , forcing him to examine his relationship with his betrayers and those he himself has betrayed – his teenage daughter, his military son and his wife. The New York Times says The Betrayers is “a compact saga of love, duty, family, and sacrifice from a rising star whose fiction is ‘self-assured, elegant, perceptive . . . and unflinchingly honest’.”
Rivka Galchen for her short story collection American Innovations, published by HarperCollins Canada
A collection of short stories, all with female protagonists, in conversation with famous literary predecessors. Wallace Stevens’s “Anecdote of the Jar” responds to John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” Galchen’s “The Lost Order” covertly recapitulates James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and the titular story “American Innovations,” revisits Nikolai Gogol’s “The Nose.”
Frances Itani for her book Tell published, by HarperCollins Canada
Tress’s husband Kenan has just returned from war, and he isn’t the same. He stays indoors, except at night when he wanders out to the frozen bay he skated on as a child. Feeling sad and alone, Tress seeks help from her Aunt Maggie, who is having marriage trouble of her own. The two couples become more and more entwined as the novels explores the secrets and burdens of their past.
Jennifer LoveGrove for her novel Watch How We Walk, published by ECW Press
The story alternates between a woman’s childhood in a Jehovah’s Witness household and her adulthood in the city. It provides a haunting exploration into the Jehovah’s Witness practice and practical impact of “disfellowshipping,” proselytization, and cultural abstinence.
Sean Michaels for his novel, Us Conductors, published by Random House Canada
The author himself has provided the best, most succinct summary of this book: “Us Conductors is a kind of love story about Lev Sergeyvich Termen, inventor of the theremin, and Clara Rockmore, its greatest player.” It’s a story of love, music, gulags, and New York in the 1930s.
Shani Mootoo for her novel Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, published by Doubleday Canada
Jonathan hasn’t seen his mother, since he was nine years old, so when they reconnect many years later he is surprised to find the woman he knew as Sid is now a man named Sydney. The novel follows Jonathan’s trips from Toronto to Trinidad to visit Sydney and his struggle to reconnect with a parent-turned-stranger.
Heather O’Neill for her novel The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, published by HarperCollins Canada
The author of the bestselling Lullabies for Little Criminals is back with another novel about children growing up in a seedy Montreal neighbourhood. The tone of this story is quite different, however. It’s a novel about twins, Noushcka and Nicolas Tremblay, the children of the legendary Quebecois folksinger, Étienne Tremblay. The story follows Noushcka and her attempts to break free of the lifestyle and legacy that comes with being a Tremblay.
Kathy Page for her short story collection Paradise and Elsewhere, published by John Metcalf Books/Biblioasis
The second collection of short stories to make the longlist. These stories, by Orange Prize winning author Kathy Page, can best be described as dark fables, walking the line between fairy tale and myth.
Claire Holden Rothman for her book My October published by Penguin Canada
The story of the famous Quebec novelist Luc Lévesque, his wife Hannah, and their son Hugo. Told through three perspectives this novel examines the power of language and the struggles to find one’s own identity.
Miriam Toews for her novel All My Puny Sorrows, published by Knopf Canada
A heartbreaking novel of two sisters: Elfrieda, a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married woman who wants to die; and Yolandi — divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men and desperate to keep her older sister alive.
Padma Viswanathan for her book The Ever After of Ashwin Rao, published by Random House Canada
The Ever After of Ashwin Rao is a story of families of those who lost loved ones in the 1985 Air India bombing; a novel of grief, tragedy and post 9/11 Canada. A stirring and political read.
There are definitely some titles I expected to see on this list — All My Puny Sorrows and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night –but there were also a number of surprises. It’s great to see some indie publishers (ECW Press and Biblioasis) mixed in with the heavy hitters like Random House, Penguin and HarperCollins. It’s also exciting that nine of the twelve nominees are by female writers.
The shortlist will be announced Monday, October 6th.
Have you read any of the longlist titles? Do you have any predictions for the short list?