Canada’s “Scotiabank Giller Prize” awards a whopping $100,000 to its annual winner, in addition to $10,000 a piece to the other 4 shortlisted authors. This year’s shortlist will be revealed on October 5th.
The twelve longlisted titles below were chosen from a record number of books submitted to the award in its twenty-two year history (168 books from 63 publishers).
That 63 publishers submitted is notable, because the Giller longlsit is typically made up of books by the major international publishing house — Penguin/Random House (and their many imprints) or HarperCollins — yet this year, one truly great independent Canadian press, Biblioasis, has a whopping 3 books of the 12.
Adding in Anansi and Coach House’s longlisted titles (one a piece) means that 5 of 12 longlisted books — more than one third — were published be independent Canadian presses.
“And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks. André Alexis’s contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness.”
“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.”
“Will has never been Outside, at least not since he can remember. For most of his young life he has lived happily – and safely – Inside his small house with his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who panics at the thought of opening the front door. But Will’s curiosity can’t be contained. Clad in a hockey helmet to protect himself from unknown dangers, he finally ventures Outside – and braces himself for disaster. What he finds instead will change everything. Will embraces his newfound freedom and soon befriends Jonah, an artistic loner who introduces him to the high-flying thrills of skateboarding. But life Outside quickly grows complicated. When a local boy goes missing, Will is pulled further away from the confines of his closed-off world and thrust headfirst into the throes of early adulthood and the criminal underbelly of city life. All the while his mother must grapple with her greatest fear: will she be brave enough to save her son?”
“Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and lucid, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing during an oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. She meets other visiting writers for dinner. She goes swimming with an elderly Greek bachelor. 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. Outline is Rachel Cusk’s finest work yet, and one of the most startling, brilliant and original novels of recent years.”
“A love story, an adventure story, a fable without a moral, and an ink-black comedy of manners, international bestselling author Patrick deWitt’s new novel is about a young man named Lucien (Lucy) Minor, 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. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery, and cold-blooded murder.”
“Close to Hugh takes an exuberantly existential look at youth and age, art and life, love and death over one week in the world of gallery-owner Hugh Argylle. On Monday, a fall from a ladder leaves Hugh with a fractured vision of the pain—dying parents, shaky marriages, failure of every kind—suffered by those close to him. His friends are one missed ladder-rung from going under emotionally, physically, and financially. Somebody’s got to fix them all. And it probably has to be Hugh. Meanwhile, beneath the adult orbit, bright young lives are taking form: the sons and daughters of Hugh’s friends are about to graduate from high school and already floating away from the gravitational pull of their parents. As complicated bonds form and break in texts and ticks on multiplying media, the desires, terrors, and revelations of adolescence are mirrored in the second adolescence of the adults.”
“In a drought-ridden Saskatchewan of the 1930s, self-possessed, enigmatic Elena Huhtala finds her self living alone, a young Finnish woman in a community of Swedes in the small village of Trevna. Her mother has been dead for many years, and her father, burdened by the hardships of drought, has disappeared, and the eighteen-year-old is an object of pity and charity in her community. But when a stranger shows up at a country dance, Elena needs only one look and one dance before jumping into his Lincoln Roadster, leaving the town and its shocked inhabitants behind. What follows is a trip through the prairie towns, their dusty streets, shabby hotel rooms, surrounded by dry fields that stretch out vastly, waiting for rain. Elena’s journey uncovers the individual stories of an unforgettable group of people, all of whom are in one way or another affected by her seductive yet innocent presence.”
“A New Face of Fiction for 2015, All True Not a Lie in It is pioneer Daniel Boone’s life, told in his voice — a tall tale like no other, startling, funny, poignant, romantic and brawling, set during the American Revolutionary War and hinging on Boone’s capture by the Shawnee. Debut novelist Alix Hawley presents Boone’s life, from his childhood in a Quaker colony, through 2 stints captured by Indians as he attempted to settle Kentucky, the death of 1 son at the hands of the same Indians, and the rescue of 1 daughter. The prose rivals Hilary Mantel’s and Peter Carey’s, conveying that sense of being inside the head of a storied historical figure about which much nonsense is spoken while also feeling completely contemporary. Boone was a fabulous hunter and explorer, and a “white Indian,” perhaps happiest when he found a place as the captive, adopted son of a chief who was trying to prevent the white settlement of Kentucky.”
“Tracing a group of ruthless outlaws from its genesis during the American Civil War all the way to a final bloody stand in the Oklahoma territories, The Winter Family is a hyperkinetic Western noir that reads like a full-on assault to the senses. Spanning the better part of three decades, The Winter Family traverses America’s harsh, untamed terrain, both serving and opposing the fierce advance of civilization. Among its twisted specimens, the Winter Family includes the psychopathic killer Quentin Ross, the mean and moronic Empire brothers, the impassive ex-slave Fred Johnson, and the dangerous child prodigy Lukas Shakespeare. But at the malevolent center of this ultraviolent storm is their cold, hardened leader, Augustus Winter—a man with an almost pathological resistance to the rules of society and a preternatural gift for butchery.”
“Heather O’Neill’s distinctive style and voice fill these charming, sometimes dark, always beguiling stories. From “The Robot Baby,” in which we discover what happens when a robot feels emotion for the very first time, to “Heaven,” about a grandfather who died for a few minutes when he was nine and visited the pearly gates, to “The Little Wolf-Boy of Northern Quebec,” in which untamed children run wild through the streets of Paris, to “Dolls,” in which a little girl’s forgotten dolls tell their own stories of woe and neglect, we are immersed in utterly unique worlds. Also included in the collection is “The End of Pinky,” which has been made into short film by the NFB. With this collection, Heather O’Neill showcases her diversity and skill as a writer and draws us in with each page.”
“Martin John’s mam says that she is glad he is done with it. But is Martin John done with it? He says he wants it to stop, his mother wants it to stop, we all want it to stop. But is it really what Martin John wants? He had it in his mind to do it and he did it. Harm was done when he did it. Harm would continue to be done. Who will stop Martin John? Will you stop him? Should she stop him? From Anakana Schofield, the brilliant author of the best-selling Malarky, comes a darkly comic novel circuiting through the mind, motivations and preoccupations of a character many women have experienced but few have understood quite so well. The result confirms Schofield as one of the bravest and most innovative authors at work in English today. The Globe and Mail called it ‘The novel all your favourite novelists will be reading.'”
“In the stories of Confidence, there are ecstasy-taking PhD students, financial traders desperate for husbands, owners of failing sex stores, violent and unremovable tenants, aggressive raccoons, seedy massage parlors, experimental filmmakers who record every second of their day, and wives who blog insults directed at their husbands. There are cheating husbands. There are private clubs, crowded restaurants, psychiatric wards. There is one magic cinema and everyone has a secret of some kind.”
This year’s jury was: Irish author John Boyne, Canadian writers Cecil Foster, Alexander MacLeod, and Alison Pick, and British author Helen Oyeyemi. Interestingly, Heather O’Neill was longlsited jsut last year, for a novel called The Girl Who Was Saturday Night.