Annal: 1999 Giller Prize for Fiction

Results of the Giller Prize in the year 1999.

Book:A Good House

A Good House: A Novel

Bonnie Burnard

A Good House begins in 1949 in Stonebrook, Ontario, home to the Chambers family. The postwar boom and hope for the future colors every facet of life: possibilities seem limitless for Bill, his wife, Sylvia, and their three children.

In the fifty years that follow, the possibilities narrow into lives, etched by character, fate, and circumstance. Sylvia’s untimely death marks her family indelibly but in ways only time will reveal. Paul’s perfect marriage yields an imperfect child. Daphne unabashedly follows an unconventional path, while Patrick discovers that his happiness requires a series of compromises. Bill confronts the onset of old age less gracefully than anticipated, and throughout, his second wife, Margaret, remains, surprisingly, the family anchor.

With her remarkable ability to probe the hidden, often disturbing landscapes of love and to illuminate the complexities of human experience, Bonnie Burnard brings to her deceptively simple narrative a clarity that is both moving and profound.

Book:Am I Disturbing You? A Novel

Am I Disturbing You?: A Novel

Anne Hébert, Sheila Fischman

This is the story of Édouard, Stéphane, and the spirited girl they find alone and apparently lost in Paris. When the two men offer the young Quebec girl shelter for the night, their lives are profoundly and irrevocably changed. Stéphane falls quickly for Delphine, but Édouard, a man without expectations who hides from the world in a life of mediocrity and whose only desire is to live and die quietly, is slower to accept her. He is disturbed by Delphine’s abrupt arrival in his life, her strange accent, her excessive passion. Then, just as he opens himself to her exuberance and vulnerability, he is torn violently from her and left to unravel the mysteries of her sudden presence and absence.

Anne Hébert’s fifth novel in translation (originally published under the title Est-ce que je te dérange?) springs from a place between dream and reality, and offers a disturbing look into the workings of fascination and obsession. Tortured love, broken childhoods, and the forces of nature and death are woven into this extraordinary, poetic tale from one of Canada’s most important writers.

Book:The Mark of the Angel

The Mark of the Angel: A Novel

Nancy Huston

The year is 1957, and the place is Paris, where the psychic wounds of World War II have barely begun to heal and the Algerian war is about to escalate. Saffie, an emotionally damaged young German woman, arrives on the doorstep of Raphael, a privileged musician who finds her reserve irresistible. He hires her, and over the next few days seduces her and convinces her to marry him. But when Raphael sends Saffie on an errand to the Jewish ghetto, where she meets András, a Hungarian instrument maker, each of their lives will be altered in startling and unexpected ways. As Saffie learns to feel again, her long buried memories coupled with the inexorable flow of historical forces beyond anyone’s control, create a tableau of epic tragedy.

The Mark of the Angel is a mesmerizing novel of love, betrayal, and the ironies of history.

Book:Pilgrim

Pilgrim: A Novel

Timothy Findley

“I have lived many times, Doctor Jung. Who knows, as Leda I might have been the mother of Helen—or, as Anne, the mother of Mary…. I was also crippled shepherd in thrall of Saint Teresa of Avila; an Irish stable boy and a maker of stained glass at Chartres…. I saw the first performance of Hamlet and the last performance of Moliere, the actor. I was a friend to Oscar Wilde and an enemy to Leonardo…. I am both male and female. I am ageless, and I have no access to death.”

On April 15, 1912—ironically the very date on which more than a thousand people lost their lives as the Titanic sank—a figure known only as Pilgrim tries to commit suicide by hanging himself from a tree. When he is found five hours later, his heart miraculously begins beating again. This isn’t his first attempt to end his life, and it is decided that steps must be…[more]

Book:Summer Gone

Summer Gone: A Novel

David Macfarlane

When Bay Newby is twelve he is sent north for the first time, and he falls in love with the life of ritual, beauty, and stark privilege of summer camp. Then the death of his baby sister calls him home, and it will be twenty-three years before his next “perfect summer.” The summer he spends with his young son will contain loss also, but also discovery and redemption.

Summer Gone is a novel of layered experience, of life, death and love as seen through the eyes of a young boy as he grows into a wiser–and more haunted–man.

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