Annal: 2012 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

Results of the Governor General's Literary Award in the year 2012.

Book:The Purchase (Linda Spalding)

The Purchase: A Novel

Linda Spalding

In 1798, Daniel Dickinson, a young Quaker father and widower, leaves his home in Pennsylvania to establish a new life. He sets out with two horses, a wagonful of belongings, his five children, a 15-year-old orphan wife, and a few land warrants for his future homestead. When Daniel suddenly trades a horse for a young slave, Onesimus, it sets in motion a struggle in his conscience that will taint his life forever, and sets in motion a chain of events that lead to two murders and the family’s strange relationship with a runaway slave named Bett.

Stripped down and as hard-edged as the realities of pioneer life, Spalding’s writing is nothing short of stunning, as it instantly envelops the reader in the world and time of the novel, and follows the lives of unforgettable characters. Inspired by stories of the author’s own ancestors, The Purchase is a resonant, powerful and timeless novel.

Book:Dr. Brinkley's Tower

Dr. Brinkley's Tower: A Novel

Robert Hough

Equal parts Mark Twain and Gabriel García Márquez, Robert Hough’s wildly imaginative new novel takes the reader to 1931 and Corazón de la Fuente, a tiny Mexican border town. Dr. Brinkley’s Tower is inspired by the monstrous shenanigans of American con artist Dr. John Romulus Brinkley—whose life was captured by Pope Brock in Charlatan—but it is historical fiction of a different sort. Hough’s aim is not to dramatize the true story of Brinkley’s border blaster radio tower and the money that flowed from his fraudulent goat gland fertility treatment. Rather, he uses a few facts from Brinkley’s well documented career to set the stage for the townspeople of Corazón, whose lives are thrown into disarray and changed forever under the scheming doctor’s influence.

Peopled with unforgettable characters and capturing a young Mexico caught between its own ambitions and the imperialist designs of its neighbor to the north, Dr. Brinkley’s Tower is a stunning achievement in storytelling.

Book:The Headmaster's Wager

The Headmaster's Wager

Vincent Lam

A superbly crafted, highly suspenseful, and deeply affecting debut novel about one man’s loyalty to his country, his family and his heritage.

Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English academy in 1960s Saigon, and he is well accustomed to bribing a forever-changing list of government officials in order to maintain the elite status of his school. Fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, he is quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country, though he also harbors a weakness for gambling haunts and the women who frequent them. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, but when his only son gets in trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival faces the limits of his connections and wealth and is forced to send him away.  …[more]

Book:The Juliet Stories

The Juliet Stories

Carrie Snyder

Juliet Friesen is ten years old when her family moves to Nicaragua. It is 1984, the height of Nicaragua’s post-revolutionary war, and the peace-activist Friesens have come to protest American involvement. In the midst of this tumult, Juliet’s family lives outside of the boundaries of ordinary life. They’ve escaped, and the ordinary rules don’t apply. Threat is pervasive, danger is real, but the extremity of the situation also produces a kind of euphoria, protecting Juliet’s family from its own cracks and conflicts.

When Juliet’s younger brother becomes sick with cancer, their adventure ends abruptly. The Friesens return to Canada only to find that their lives beyond Nicaragua have become the war zone. One by one, they drift from each other, and Juliet grows to adulthood, pulled between her desire to live a free life like the one she remembers in Nicaragua, and her desire to build for…[more]

Book:Siege 13: Stories

Siege 13: Stories

Tamas Dobozy

Built around the events of the Soviet Budapest Offensive at the end of World War II and its long shadow, the stories in Siege 13 are full of wit, irony, and dark humor. In a series of linked stories that alternate between the siege itself and a contemporary community of Hungarian émigrés who find refuge in the West, Dobozy utilizes a touch of deadpan humor and a deep sense of humanity to extoll the horrors and absurdity of ordinary people caught in the crosshairs of brutal conflict and its silent aftermath.

Observing the uses and mis-uses of history, and their effect on individuals and community, Dobozy examines the often blurry line between right and wrong, portraying a world in which one man’s betrayal is another man’s survival, and in which common citizens are caught between the pincers of aggressors, leading to actions at once deplorable, perplexing, and heroic. Dobozy’s…[more]

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