Results of the Governor General's Literary Award in the year 1996.
The Englishman’s Boy brilliantly links together Hollywood in the 1920s with one of the bloodiest, most brutal events of the nineteenth-century Canadian West—the Cypress Hills Massacre. Vanderhaeghe’s rendering of the stark, dramatic beauty of the western landscape and of Hollywood in its most extravagant era—with its visionaries, celebrities, and dreamers—provides vivid background for scenes of action, adventure, and intrigue. Richly textured, evocative of time and place, this is an unforgettable novel about power, greed, and the pull of dreams that has at its centre the haunting story of a young drifter—“the Englishman’s boy”—whose fate, ultimately, is a tragic one.
Margaret Atwood takes us back in time and into the life and mind of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the nineteenth century. Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, the wealthy Thomas Kinnear, and of Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence after a stint in Toronto’s lunatic asylum, Grace herself claims to have no memory of the murders.
Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story, from her family’s difficult passage out of Ireland into Canada, to her time as a maid in Thomas Kinnear’s household. As he brings Grace closer and closer to the day she cannot remember, he hears of the turbulent relationship between Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery, and of the alarming behavior of Grace’s fellow servant, James McDermott. Jordan is drawn to Grace, but he is also baffled by her. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend, a bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she a victim of circumstances?
Playwright and actor Cordelia Strube’s third novel is an unsettling portrayal of life as a single mom in the city. Rita Johnson lives with her six-year-old son, Max, fibroids on her uterus, and battered self-esteem. “She has noticed that generally, if she says little, admirable qualities will be projected onto her. Her mistake has always been to open her mouth.” Adding to Rita’s tapestry of despair are her Archie Bunker-like father, an MS-stricken mother who also suffers from dementia, an unhappily married sister, and a mentally ill brother. And then there’s Max’s absentee father, a troubled surgeon damaged by his work in war-torn parts of the world. Rita spends her days writing scripts for industrial videos, battling the mice that have invaded her house, and trying to shield her son from a world she has lost faith in.