Results of the Governor General's Literary Award in the year 1992.
During the final moments of World War II, in a deserted Italian villa, four people come together: a young nurse, her will broken, all her energy focused on her last, dying patient, a man in whom she has seen something “she wanted to learn, to grow into and hide in”… the patient: an unknown Englishman, survivor of a plane crash, his mind awash with a life’s worth of secrets and passions … a thief whose “skills” have made him one of the war’s heroes, and one of its casualties … an Indian soldier in the British army, an expert at bomb disposal whose three years at war have taught him that “the only thing safe is himself.” Slowly, they begin to reveal themselves to each other, the stories of their pasts and of the present unfolding in scene after haunting scene, taking us into the Sahara, the English countryside, down the streets of London during the Blitz, into the makeshift army hospitals of Italy, and through the battered gardens and rooms of the villa. And with these stories, Ondaatje weaves a complex tapestry of image and emotion, recollection and observation: the paths and details of four diverse lives caught and changed and now inextricably connected by the brutal, improbable circumstances of war.
In this stunning and original novel, John Steffler has recreated a lost time and place, and has given life to an enigmatic figure from Canada’s 18th-century past. Described quietly by historians as “soldier, diarist, entrepreneur,” George Cartwright emerges in Steffler’s tale as a character of overwhelming appetite and ambition. Until this time Cartwright’s greatest legacy has been the place in Labrador named after him and the journal he wrote during his years there, when he lived amongst Native people and ran a successful trading post. Now his legacy becomes our own: a telling portrait of our past; a warning.
Scriptwriter Amy Barber travels by car from Toronto to Winnipeg with her younger lover, Piotr, a Polish filmmaker. This is a journey shadowed by the future, and the past. The narrative moves from a small Manitoba town during one extraordinary hot summer at the close of the fifties when the death of Amy’s sister changes everything, to the time when Amy marries, goes to live in the city, and begins to have reason to fear for her young son’s well-being. Birdsell’s haunting, almost tactile evocation of the dangerous territory of the past is infused with an uneasy nostalgia. Her unforgettable characters are portrayed as complex, fallible beings and, through them, she explores the private, sometimes cruel realm of relationships and the universal quest for an often elusive self-acceptance.