The one thing I’ve noticed about the CBC website that sets out the top ten books for the Giller Prize Reader’s Choice is that it doesn’t post any information about the books themselves, only the book covers. I haven’t read most of these books myself and was interested to find out what they were all about. I thought you might be too.
So here’s a brief synopsis of each of them, from the information that appears on Amazon.ca ( which I’ve shortened to one paragraph, due to length). Enjoy! (And do support Canadian authors: these books look awesome!)
Above All Things (Tanis Rideout, McClelland and Stewart)
The Paris Wife meets Into Thin Air in this breathtaking debut novel of obsession and divided loyalties, which brilliantly weaves together the harrowing story of George Mallory’s ill-fated 1924 attempt to be the first man to conquer Mount Everest, with that of a single day in the life of his wife as she waits at home in England for news of his return…
a timeless story of desire, redemption, and the lengths we are willing to go for honour, glory, and love.
A Certain Grace (Binnie Brennan, Quattro Books)
During a tipsy night out escaping the frustrations of daily routines, two middle-aged school teachers try their luck at scoring a joint. A long-haul trucker drives an injured butterfly to its breeding ground in Florida, giving them both a much-needed migration. And while struggling with the death of her ex-husband, a single mother questions her place in her family’s lives. A Certain Grace is richly told in spare prose and woven with vignettes of a much-loved grandfather’s life.
A Matter of Life and Death (or Something) (Ben Stephenson, Douglas & McIntyre)
Even though he’s only ten years old, Arthur Williams knows lots of things for sure. He knows all about trilobites, and bridge, and that he doesn’t want to be Victoria Brown’s boyfriend, and that tapping maple trees causes them excruciating pain. He knows his real dad is probably flying a hot-air balloon across the Pacific, or paving a city with moss. And he knows that Simon, the guy who pretends to be his dad, does absolutely nothing interesting. But when Arthur finds a weather-worn notebook in the woods behind his house, all he has are questions. Why was its author, Phil, so sad, and why does it end on page 43? Suddenly, there are other questions too: Why do people abandon people? Why do they abandon themselves?
Daughters Who Walk the Path (Yejide Kilanko, published by Penguin Canada)
Spirited and intelligent, Morayo grows up surrounded by school friends and family in busy, modern-day Ibadan, Nigeria. An adoring little sister, their traditional parents, and a host of aunties and cousins make Morayo’s home their own. So there’s nothing unusual about her charming but troubled cousin Bros T moving in with the family. At first Morayo and her sister are delighted, but in her innocence, nothing prepares Morayo for the shameful secret Bros T forces upon her.
Giant (Aga Maksimowska, Pedlar Press)
How do you fit in in a new country when you’re a “giant freak,” you don’t speak the language and bizarre things are happening to your motherland as well as to your body? Aga Maksimowska tells the story of an eleven-year-old girl in an adult’s body whose coming of age in a country undergoing a revolution is interrupted by a sudden and cruel move to Canada…In Canada, like many children of migrants, Gosia is unsure of her identity: she’s neither Polish nor Canadian. As she grows up, she’s forced to weave a new existence for herself, one that includes new multi-ethnic influences and old familial traditions.
The Beggar’s Opera (Peggy Blair, Penguin Canada)
In beautiful, crumbling Old Havana, Canadian detective Mike Ellis hopes the sun and sand will help save his troubled marriage. He doesn’t yet know that it’s dead in the water—much like the little Cuban boy last seen begging the Canadian couple for a few pesos on the world famous Malecon. For Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, finding his prime suspect isn’t a problem—Cuban law is. He has only seventy-two hours to secure an indictment and prevent a vicious killer from leaving the island. But Ramirez also has his own troubles to worry about. He’s dying of the same dementia that killed his grandmother, an incurable disease that makes him see the ghosts of victims of unsolved murders. As he races against time, the dead haunt his every step …
The Girl in the Box (Sheila Dalton, Dundurn Press)
A Guatemalan girl traumatized by violence commits murder… Or does she? Caitlin Sachs, a Canadian journalist, discovers that Inez, a traumatized young Mayan woman, has murdered Caitlin’s psychoanalyst partner, Dr. Jerry Simpson. Caitlin becomes obsessed with what really happened in Dr. Simpson’s study. Jerry did well by his patients but had issues of his own. Inez, who is mute, becomes a curiosity for the Canadians who encounter her. As Caitlin struggles to uncover the truth about Inez’s relationship with Jerry, Inez struggles to break free from the preconceptions of others. Each must confront her own anger and despair.
The Good Doctor (Vince Agro, Poplar Press)
Hamilton’s Italian community comes to vibrant life in this World War II era novel. Told as a tale during a winter night, The Good Doctor follows the efforts of Doctor Vincenzo Arcone to fight the forces of fascism within his community and prejudice without. Filled with vibrant characters, striking depictions of Hamilton as a thriving city and intriguing historical details, The Good Doctor is a compelling tale, one that deals with age-old themes of identity and belonging in a fresh way.
The Love Monster (Missy Marston, Esplanada Press)
The Love Monster is the tall tale of one woman’s struggle with mid-life issues. The main character, Margaret H. Atwood, has psoriasis, a boring job and a bad attitude. Her cheating husband has left her. And none of her pants fit any more. Marston takes the reader on a hilarious journey of recovery. Hope comes in the form of a dope-smoking senior citizen, a religious fanatic, a good lawyer and a talking turtle (not to mention Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Warren Zevon, Neil Armstrong and a yogi buried deep underground). And, of course, hope comes in the form of a love-sick alien speaking in the voice of Donald Sutherland.
Triggers (Robert Sawyer, Penguin Canada)
On the eve of a secret military operation, an assassin’s bullet strikes U.S. President Seth Jerrison. He is rushed to hospital, where surgeons struggle to save his life. At the same hospital, Canadian researcher Dr. Ranjip Singh is experimenting with a device that can erase traumatic memories. Then a terrorist bomb detonates. In the operating room, the president suffers cardiac arrest. He has a near-death experience—but the memories that flash through Jerrison’s mind are not his memories…. the task of determining who has switched memories with whom is a daunting one, particularly when some of the people involved have reasons to lie …