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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

2015 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

The Canada Council for the Arts today announced the 2015 shortlist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards.  From, here are brief descriptions of the five finalists for fiction:

How You Were Born by Kate Cayley
How You Were Born is a collection of short stories looking at the bizarre, the tragi-comic and the unbelievable elements that run through our lives.  An aging academic becomes convinced that he is haunted by his double.  Two children believe their neighbours are war criminals in hiding.  A dwarf in a circus dreams of a perfect wedding.  An eleven-year-old girl becomes obsessed with the acrobat who visits her small town.  Two women fall in love over a painting of the apocalypse.  A group of siblings put their senile Holocaust survivor father into institutional care, while failing to notice that he is reliving the past.  Each story examines, from a different angle, the difficult business of love, loyalty and memory.

Outline by Rachel Cusk
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.
Note:  This book also appears on the Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist and was a finalist for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys
Resigned to living out the Second World War in a German POW camp, James Hunter, an English officer, begins studying a pair of redstarts near the camp.  His interest in the birds captures the attention of the Kommandant and gives James cause to fear for his life.  Meanwhile, back in England, James's young wife, Rose, falls headlong into a passionate affair with another man.  When James's sister, Enid, is bombed out of her London flat, she comes to stay with Rose, and the two women form a surprising friendship that alters the course of both of their lives.

The Winter Family by Clifford Jackson
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.
Note:  This novel was on the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Daddy Lenin and Other Stories by Guy Vanderhaeghe
Among these nine stories: A teenage boy breaks out of the strict confines of his family, but his bid for independence leads him in over his head.   An actor’s penchant for hiding behind a role, on and off stage, is tested to the limits and what he comes to discover finally places him face to face with the truth. With his mother hospitalized for a nervous condition and his father away on long work stints, a boy is sent to another family for his meals. His gradually building relationship with a teenage daughter who has been left handicapped from polio opens unexpected doors to the world.  In the title story, a middle-aged man re-meets his former adviser at university, a charismatic and domineering professor dubbed Daddy Lenin.  As their tense reunion progresses, secrets from the past painfully revise remembered events and threaten to topple the scaffolding of a marriage.
Note:  I highlighted the three novels of Vanderhaege’s frontier series in yesterday’s blog entry.

See for the finalists in all the categories.  The winners will be announced on Oct. 28.