Annal: 2002 Giller Prize for Fiction

Results of the Giller Prize in the year 2002.

Book:The Polished Hoe

The Polished Hoe: A Novel

Austin Clarke

When Mary-Mathilda, one of the most respected women on the colonized island of Bimshire (also known as Barbados), calls the police to confess to a crime, the result is a shattering all-night vigil. She claims the crime is against Mr. Belfeels, the powerful manager of the sugar plantation that dominates the villagers’ lives and for whom she has worked for more than thirty years as a field laborer, kitchen help, and maid. She was also Mr. Belfeels’s mistress, kept in good financial status in the Great House of the plantation, and the mother of his only son, Wilberforce, a successful doctor, who after living abroad returns to the island.

Set in the period following World War II, The Polished Hoe unravels over the course of twenty-four hours but spans the lifetime of one woman and the collective experience of a society characterized by slavery.

Book:Mount Appetite

Mount Appetite

Bill Gaston

Mount Appetite presents 12 vibrant, intensely human tales of desire and alienation.

“Everyone at the top of Mt. Appetite is as close as they can get to heaven. It’s work to get there and agony to be denied.” Whether a salmon researcher, professional taster, illiterate faith healer, or Malcolm Lowry’s illegitimate son, the protagonists in these sly and witty stories have all climbed the mountain, and all share a restless, relentless longing that they struggle to satiate through alcohol, drugs, sex, or schemes of the heart.

Bill Gaston, author of the critically acclaimed The Good Body, evinces a remarkable dexterity of voice as he moves effortlessly among his colorful cast of characters, drawing the junkie with the same skill and compassion as the teenaged 7-11 clerk. Grotesque, unsettling, and oddly tender, Mount Appetite is short fiction at its finest.

Book:The Navigator of New York

The Navigator of New York: A Novel

Wayne Johnston

The Navigator of New York is set against the background of the tumultuous rivalry between Lieutenant Peary and Dr. Cook to get to the North Pole at the beginning of the 20th century. It is also the story of a young man’s quest for his origins, from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to the bustling streets of New York, and the remotest regions of the Arctic.

Devlin Stead’s father, an Arctic explorer, stops returning home at the end of his voyages and announces he is moving to New York, as “New York is to explorers what Paris is to artists”; eventually he is declared missing from an expedition. His mother meets an untimely death by drowning shortly after. Young Devlin, who barely remembers either of them, lives contently in the care of his affectionate aunt and indifferent uncle, until taunts from a bullying fellow schoolboy reveal dark truths underlying the bare facts he knows about his family. A rhyme circulated around St. John’s further isolates Devlin, always seen as an odd…[more]

Book:Open

Open

Lisa Moore

The only certainty in life, according to these stories, comes from the accumulation of moments that refuse to be contained.

The stories in Open cover these moments, familiar territory in the hands of most writers, in unfamiliar ways. The interconnectedness of a bus ride in Nepal and a wedding on the shore of Quidi Vidi Lake; the tension between a husband and wife when their infant cries before dawn (who will go to him?) and the husband’s wrenching memory of an early love affair; two friends, one who suffers early in life and the other midway through—these are some of the subjects Lisa Moore treats with her incomparable style.

Drawing on vivid landscapes both interior and exterior, Moore splices together the sudden shocks and subtle realizations that enter her characters’ lives, using the piercing imagery and soulful technique that have won her acclaim from critics and her many fans.

Book:Unless

Unless: A Novel

Carol Shields

I’m not interested, the way some people are, in being sad. I’ve had a look, and there’s nothing down that road. Well now! What about the ripping sound behind my eyes, the starchy tearing of fabric, end to end; what about the need I have to curl up my knees when I sleep?

For all of her life, 44 year old Reta Winters has enjoyed the useful monotony of happiness: a loving family, good friends, growing success as a writer of light ‘summertime’ fiction. But this placid existence is cracked wide open when her beloved eldest daughter, Norah, drops out to sit on a gritty street corner, silent but for the sign around her neck that reads ‘GOODNESS.’ Reta’s search for what drove her daughter to such a desperate statement turns into an unflinching and surprisingly funny meditation on where we find meaning and hope.

Warmth, passion and wisdom come together in Shields’ remarkably supple prose. Unless, a harrowing but ultimately consoling story of one family’s anguish and healing, proves her mastery of extraordinary fictions about ordinary life.

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