Annal: 2001 Giller Prize for Fiction

Results of the Giller Prize in the year 2001.

Book:Clara Callan

Clara Callan: A Novel

Richard B. Wright

It is the year 1934, and in a small town in Canada, Clara Callan reluctantly takes leave of her sister, Nora, who is bound for the show business world of New York. It’s a time when people escape from reality through radio and the movies, when the Dionne Quints make headlines, when the growing threat of fascism in Europe is a constant worry, and the two sisters—vastly different in personality yet inextricably linked by a shared past—try to find their place within the complex web of social expectations for young women in the 1930s.

While Nora embarks on a glamorous career as a radio soap opera star, Clara, a strong and independent-minded woman, struggles to observe the traditional boundaries of a small and tight-knit community without relinquishing her dreams of love, freedom, and adventure. But Nora’s letters eventually begin to reveal that her life in the big city is a little less exotic than it may…[more]

Book:Martin Sloane

Martin Sloane

Michael Redhill

What does it really mean to love another person? The question hovers like a persistent wisp of fog over the story of Martin Sloane, an Irish-born artist who creates intricate, object-filled boxes, and Jolene Iolas, the young American woman who finds herself drawn first to Martin Sloane’s art and then to the man himself. The story of their relationship across two decades, and of Jolene’s search for Martin Sloane when one day he disappears from their home without warning or explanation, is told in a novel that brilliantly and movingly explores the vagaries of love and friendship, the burdens of personal history, and the enigmatic power of art.

Book:River Thieves

River Thieves: A Novel

Michael Crummey

In a masterly debut, the award-winning poet and short-fiction writer Michael Crummey crafts a haunting novel set on the rugged coast of Newfoundland at the turn of the nineteenth century. Told in elegant, sensual prose, River Thieves is a richly imagined, historically provocative story about love, loss, and the heartbreaking compromises—both personal and political—that undermine lives.

In 1810, David Buchan, a naval officer, arrives in the Bay of Exploits with orders to establish contact with the Beothuk, or “Red Indians,” the aboriginal inhabitants of Newfoundland, who are facing extinction. When Buchan approaches the area’s most influential white settlers, the Peytons, for advice and assistance, he enters a shadowy world of allegiances and old grudges that he can only dimly apprehend. His closest ally, John Peyton Jr., maintains an uneasy balance between duty to his father—a…[more]

Book:The Russländer

The Russländer

Sandra Birdsell

Katherine (Katya) Vogt is now an old woman living in Winnipeg, but the story of how she and her family came to Canada begins in Russia in 1910, on a wealthy Mennonite estate. Here they lived in a world bounded by the prosperity of their landlords and by the poverty and disgruntlement of the Russian workers who toil on the estate. But in the wake of the First World War, the tensions engulfing the country begin to intrude on the community, leading to an unspeakable act of violence. In the aftermath of that violence, and in the difficult years that follow, Katya tries to come to terms with the terrible events that befell her and her family.

In lucid, spellbinding prose, Birdsell vividly evokes time and place, and the unease that existed in a county on the brink of revolutionary change. The Russländer is a powerful and moving story of ordinary people who lived through extraordinary times.

Book:Stanley Park

Stanley Park: A Novel

Timothy Taylor

Jeremy Papier, the new Alice Waters of the Vancouver food world, is fast becoming known for his radically rear-guard cuisine—tradition-steeped dishes that celebrate the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. His restaurant, The Monkey’s Paw Bistro, is always fully booked, but, unfortunately, it’s more an artistic triumph than a reasonably run business. Far too costly ever to turn a profit, it is kited by Jeremy on dozens of maxed-out credit cards. An old family friend, Dante Beale, owner of a worldwide chain of cookie-cutter coffeehouses, is willing to bail the restaurant out—for the price of sole control. It’s a business proposition made in hell, one strenuously opposed by Jeremy’s pretty young sous chef, the incorruptible, plainspoken Jules.

Jeremy’s problems deepen when his eccentric-academic father—a “participatory anthropologist” half Joseph Mitchell, half Joe Gould—loses himself among the homeless in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. He lives as they do (he’s especially adept…[more]

Book:The Stone Carvers

The Stone Carvers: A Novel

Jane Urquhart

While the world was still reeling from the staggering losses incurred in the First World War, a little-known Canadian sculptor was raising a colossal monument in France, where more than sixty-six thousand of his countrymen had fought and died. The Vimy Ridge Memorial still stands as a stark reminder of the Canadians who gave their lives in France—and as a testament to the vision and single-minded obsession of its now-forgotten architect, Walter Allward.

It is against the backdrop of this incredible achievement that Jane Urquhart sets her new novel. At the center of the story is Klara Becker, the granddaughter of a master woodcarver, who spends her childhood in a German-settled community in southwestern Ontario in the years leading up to the Great War. It is a childhood punctuated by tremendous losses: her mother dies of cancer when she is a teenager; her older brother, in love with wandering, eventually leaves the family; and her brief but passionate love affair with Eamon O’Sullivan is cut short when he volunteers for action and never returns. But Klara’s inherited gift for carving eventually reunites her with her brother and gives her purpose as she works on the memorial that will make her whole again.

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