Annal: 1998 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

Results of the Governor General's Literary Award in the year 1998.

Book:Forms of Devotion

Forms of Devotion: Stories and Pictures

Diane Schoemperlen

In Forms of Devotion, Diane Schoemperlen tests the bonds of her craft, creating an arresting and wonderfully readable work that is also a treat for the eye. The illustrations, selected by the author, are wood engravings and line drawings from the seventeenth, eighteent, and nineteenth centuries. The subtle interplay of words and images creates a backdrop for Schoemperlen’s witty and intelligent exploration of devotion in its many forms: devotion to material objects and daily rituals, to the pleasures of the body and the pains of romantic love, and even to the delicious stability of the status quo. The result is a playful, sometimes surreal, and often mysterious justaposition of a historical fascination with anatomy and classical themes and Schoempelen’s contemporary fascination with everyday people, places, and things.

Each story is a creative delight, rich in mischevous wit, irony, and multilayered meaning. The title story, Forms…[more]

Book:The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A Novel

Wayne Johnston

“The Colony of Unrequited Dreams” is Newfoundland—that vast, haunting near-continent upon which the two lovers and adversaries of this miraculously inventive novel pursue their ambitions.

Joey Smallwood, sprung from almost Dickensian privation, is a scholarship boy at a private school, where his ready wit bests the formidably tart-tongued Sheilagh Fielding. Their dual fates become forever linked by an anonymous letter to a local paper critical of the school—a letter whose mysterious authorship will weigh heavily on their lives.

Driven by socialist dreams and political desire, Smallwood will walk a railroad line the breadth of Newfoundland in a journey of astonishing power and beauty, to unionize the workers—and make his name. Fielding, now a popular newspaper columnist, provides—in her journalism, her diaries, and her bleakly hilarious “Condensed History of Newfoundland”—a satirical and eloquent…[more]

Book:The Electrical Field

The Electrical Field: A Novel

Kerri Sakamoto

When the beautiful Chisako and her lover are found murdered in a park, members of a small Ontario suburb in the 1970s must finally acknowledge certain inescapable truths about one another and the way their community has been shaped by the dark shadow of World War II internment camps.

With all the suspense of a psychological thriller, The Electrical Field slowly exposes all those implicated in the murders—particularly Miss Saito, the novel’s unreliable narrator, through whom we gradually discover the truth. Like Kazuo Ishiguru in A Pale View of Hills, Kerri Sakamoto invokes a Japanese sense of the relativity of memory and reliability of consciousness. Miss Saito, middle-aged, caring for her elderly, bed-ridden father and her distracted younger brother, on the surface seems to be a passive observer. But her own disturbed past and her craving for an emotional connection will prove to have profound…[more]

Book:Strange Heaven

Strange Heaven

Lynn Coady

Bridget Murphy is an unwed teenage mother who is seeking sanctuary in the psych ward of a Halifax children’s hospital. Apathetic and withdrawn, she struggles with depression after giving her baby up for adoption. But Bridget’s problems pale next to the other patients on her ward. There is Mona, the foul-mouthed rich kid, anorexics Kelly and Marie, and geeky, delusional Byron. Bridget observes the nightmarish, yet darkly humourous antics on the ward with a bemused detachment. At Christmas, Bridget is sprung from the hospital by her Uncle Albert. They return to her small Cape Breton town joining family and friends that make the psych ward inhabitants look like the poster children for mental health.

Bridget’s grandmother raves and prays from her bed, her father communicates in bellows punctuated by profanity and her mentally disabled Uncle Rollie spends his time making religious folk art to sell to tourists. Add to the mix her boozy friends…[more]

Book:The White Bone

The White Bone: A Novel

Barbara Gowdy

If, as many recent nonfiction bestsellers have revealed, animals possess emotions and awareness, they must also have stories. In The White Bone, a novel imagined entirely from the perspective of African elephants, Barbara Gowdy creates a world whole and separate that yet illuminates our own.

For years, young Mud and her family have roamed the high grasses, swamps, and deserts of the sub-Sahara. Now the earth is scorched by drought, and the mutilated bodies of family and friends lie scattered on the ground, shot down by ivory hunters. Nothing-not the once familiar terrain, or the age-old rhythms of life, or even memory itself-seems reliable anymore. Yet a slim prophecy of hope is passed on from water hole to water hole: the sacred white bone of legend will point the elephants toward the Safe Place. And so begins a quest through Africa’s vast and perilous plains-until at last the survivors face a decisive trial of loyalty…[more]

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