November is literary awards season in Canada, and there is always plenty of speculation about who will be the big winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Awards. This year the buzz surrounding the Giller Prize focused more on who did not make the shortlist, rather than the remaining five writers vying for the prize. The shortlist was missing two of the highly acclaimed novels of the season: Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam and Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda. According to a Globe and Mail article by Sandra Martin, Margaret Atwood took her own novel out of contention when she agreed to serve as a Giller judge. Only the jury knows why The Orenda was omitted from the shortlist.
The 2013 winner of the $50,000 Giller Prize was Edmonton writer Lynn Coady for her short story collection Hellgoing. The jury praised Coady’s stories, indicating that they “offer a stupendous range of attitudes, narrative strategies, and human situations, each complete and intricate, creating a world the reader enters as totally as that of a novel, or a dream.”
Publisher summary for Hellgoing:
“A young nun charged with talking an anorexic out of her religious fanaticism toys with the thin distance between practicality and blasphemy. A strange bond between a teacher and a schoolgirl takes on ever deeper, and stranger, shapes as the years progress. A bride-to-be with a penchant for nocturnal bondage can’t seem to stop bashing herself up in the light of day. Equally adept at capturing the foibles and obsessions of men and of women, compassionate in her humour yet never missing an opportunity to make her characters squirm, fascinated as much by faithlessness as by faith, Lynn Coady is quite possibly the writer who best captures what it is to be human at this particular moment in our history.”
Lynn Coady, originally from Cape Breton, now lives in Edmonton where she is a founding and senior editor of the award-winning magazine Eighteen Bridges. A Scotiabank Giller press release notes that Coady is the author of the bestselling novel The Antagonist (which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize), as well as the novels Mean Boy, Saints of Big Harbour, and Strange Heaven and the short story collection Play the Monster Blind. Her body of work has received high critical praise as Lynn has been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, and has graced The Globe and Mail’s annual list of Top 100 Books four times.
The Governor General’s Literary Awards were announced on November 13, 2013. There were winners in a wide variety of categories including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, children’s text, children’s illustration, and translation. Eleanor Catton followed up her Man Booker Prize win with the receipt of the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction. Quite an accomplishment for a 28-year-old author!
As noted in a previous blog, Catton was born in London, Ontario, while her father was completing his PhD at the University of Western Ontario. The CBC Books website notes that Catton’s family spent the first six years of Eleanor’s life in Canada before moving to New Zealand (when her father accepted a teaching position at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch). Eleanor currently lives in Auckland, where she teaches at the Manukau Institute of Technology. I find it interesting that two countries are claiming Catton as a “native” author…is she Canadian or a New Zealander?
The Luminaries is a long book (832 pages), that dazzles with masterful storytelling. The CBC Books website lists 5 facts about Catton, noting that her 2008 debut book, The Rehearsal, was adored by critics and received the Amazon.ca First Novel Award after it was published in Canada in 2010.
Publisher summary for The Luminaries:
“Dickens meets Deadwood in this bold murder mystery set in a remote gold-mining frontier town in nineteenth-century New Zealand, in which three unsolved crimes link the fates and fortunes of twelve men. Part mystery, part fantastical love story, and full of diabolical twists and turns, The Luminaries reveals the ways our interconnected lives shape our destinies.”
Non-fiction GG Winner:
Sandra Djwa, Journey With No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page
Publisher Summary: This is the first biography of P.K. Page, a brilliant 20th-century poet and fine artist, who becomes one of Canada’s best-loved and most influential writers. The product of over a decade’s research and writing, the book is both the captivating story of a remarkable woman and a major contribution to the study of Canada’s literary and artistic history.
Check out all the Governor General’s Literary Award winners on the Canada Council For The Arts website…