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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist

The longlist for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize was announced today (
Here are brief descriptions (from of the twelve books. 

AndrĂ© Alexis – Fifteen Dogs
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.

Samuel Archibald – Arvida
This collection of short stories (about innocent young girls and wild beasts, attempted murder and ritual mutilation, haunted houses and road trips to nowhere) is a portrait of a remote mining town in northern Quebec.

Michael Christie – If I Fall, If I Die
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, and he finally ventures Outside.  Will embraces his newfound freedom, 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?

Rachel Cusk – Outline
Outline is a novel in ten conversations.  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.

Patrick deWitt – Undermajordomo Minor
Lucien (Lucy) Minor is friendless and loveless, young and aimless, a compulsive liar, a sickly weakling in a town famous for begetting brutish giants.  He accepts employment at the foreboding and remote 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.

Marina Endicott – Close to Hugh
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.

Connie Gault – A Beauty
In a drought-ridden Saskatchewan of the 1930s, self-possessed, enigmatic Elena Huhtala finds herself 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.

Alix Hawley – All True Not a Lie in It
Pioneer Daniel Boone tells his life story.  He discusses his childhood in a Quaker colony, his capture by the Shawnee as he attempted to settle Kentucky, his love for his wife Rebecca, and the fate of his children. 

Cliff Jackman – The Winter Family
The novel traces a gang of ruthless outlaws from its birth during the American Civil War to a final bloody showdown in the Territory of Oklahoma.   From the 1860s to the 1880s, the outlaws known as the Winter Family roam the harsh frontier, both serving and battling the fierce advance of civilization. Among its twisted specimens are the psychopathic killer Quentin Ross, the mean and moronic Empire brothers, the impassive ex-slave Fred Johnson, and the gunslinging child prodigy, Lukas Riddle. At the centre of this ultraviolent storm is their cold, dandified and golden-eyed leader, Augustus Winter--a man with a pathological resistance to the rules of society and a preternatural gift for butchery.

Heather O’Neill – Daydreams of Angels
This is a collection of dark fairy tales (e.g. the story of a naive cult follower in "Dear Piglet"; the struggle of two young women in occupied Paris in “Snow-White and Rose-Red”; the story of generations of failed Nureyev clones in post-Soviet Russia in “The Ugly Ducklings”).

Anakana Schofield – Martin John
This is a darkly comic novel circuiting through the mind, motivations and preoccupations of a character many women have experienced.  Martin John's mother 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?

Russell Smith – Confidence
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 parlours, 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, and psychiatric wards.  

The shortlist will be announced on October 5; the winner of the $100,000 award will be announced on November 10.

It’s time to get reading some great Canadian fiction!