Books

6 books shortlisted for $100K Scotiabank Giller Prize

David Bezmozgis, Alix Ohlin, Ian Williams, Steven Price, Megan Gail Coles and Michael Crummey are the finalists for Canada's biggest literary prize. The winner will be revealed on Nov. 18, 2019.
The winner of the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize will be announced on Nov. 18, 2019. (CBC)

Six titles have been shortlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize. The $100,000 prize is the richest Canadian literary award and annually recognizes the country's best fiction. 

Here's the full shortlist:

The Innocents and Dual Citizens are also shortlisted for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

The 2019 shortlist features three authors previously nominated for the Giller Prize. Ohlin was shortlisted in 2012 for the novel Inside, Crummey was shortlisted in 2001 for the novel River Thieves and Bezmozgis was nominated in 2011 for The Free World and again in 2014 for The Betrayers.

Williams and Coles are both nominated for their debut novels. Williams is an accomplished poet, having been nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize for the collection Personals.

117 titles were submitted for consideration this year.

The shortlist was chosen from a 12-book longlist that included Margaret Atwood's blockbuster new novel The Testaments.

The longlist and shortlist were selected by a five-person jury comprised of Donna Bailey Nurse, Randy Boyagoda, José Teodoro, Aminatta Forna and Aleksandar Hemon. They will also choose the winner, which will be announced at a gala event in Toronto on Nov. 18, 2019.

The awards ceremony will be hosted by Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter and star of the television series Jann, Jann Arden.

The ceremony will air on CBC, CBC Radio One and will be livestreamed on CBC Books. You can get all the broadcast details here.

Giller Light galas will be held across the country to tune into the ceremony. Currently Giller Light bashes are planned for Halifax, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Thunder Bay, Victoria and Winnipeg.

Leading up to the ceremony, the shortlisted authors will be doing events across Canada in a series known as Between the Pages. Between the Pages events are planned for Ottawa, Halifax, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and New York.

Last year's winner was Esi Edugyan for the novel Washington Black. Edugyan is the partner of 2019 finalist Price.

Other past Giller Prize winners include Rohinton Mistry for A Fine BalanceMargaret Atwood for Alias GraceMordecai Richler for Barney's VersionAlice Munro for RunawayAndré Alexis for Fifteen Dogs and Madeleine Thien for Do Not Say We Have Nothing.

Keep reading to learn more about the shortlisted books and authors.

Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis

Immigrant City is a short story collection by David Bezmozgis. (HarperCollins Canada)

In Bezmozgis's short story collection Immigrant City, a wannabe boxer finds work as a security guard in the Toronto suburbs, a father and daughter end up in a strange rendition of his immigrant childhood and a young man unwittingly makes contact with the underworld. 

"In this wise and assured collection, Bezmozgis has reimagined immigrant lives not simply as marked by displacement and discontinuity, but of immigration as a shared and binding experience that crosses the boundaries of race, nationality, occupation, class, politics and even past betrayals, to serve as a point of connection and compassion between Bezmozgis's characters," the jury said in a statement.

Born in Latvia, Bezmozgis lives in Toronto. He is also the author of the novel The Betrayers and The Free World.

Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles

Megan Gail Coles's debut novel Small Game Hunting At The Local Coward Gun Club is out now. (Playwrights Canada Press, House of Anansi Press)

Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, Megan Gail Coles's debut novel, revolves around a cast of flawed characters who are implicated in each other's hopes, dreams and pains as they try to survive harsh economic times in the province. 

"This is not your traditional Newfoundland novel of social isolation. Instead, Megan Gail Coles portrays the harsh existence of the islanders'as emblematic of the human condition itself. The characters' lives unfold around a fine restaurant. They are physically and emotionally crippled by their society's devastating inequalities, the women psychologically maimed by repeated sexual assault. Coles's narrator storms against the status quo in a kinetic novel that dazzles, challenges and exhilarates," the jury said in a statement.

Coles is a playwright from St. John's. She previously published the short story collection Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome.

The Innocents by Michael Crummey

Michael Crummey's new book is called The Innocents. (Doubleday Canada, Holly Hogan)

In Crummey's novel The Innocents, a young brother and sister live in isolation in Newfoundland, surviving alone on the bits of knowledge their parents left behind. Their loyalty to one another is the reason they are able to persist through storms and illness, but their relationship is tested as they grow older.

"Written in a language that is at the same time fresh and ancient, Michael Crummey's The Innocents is a (mis)creation myth that demands a reconsideration of what we think we know about love and death, family and loneliness, oblivion and wisdom, horror and beauty, bodies and knowledge, violence and desire," the jury said in a statement.

Crummey is from Newfoundland. His other books include the novels Sweetland and Galore.

Dual Citizens by Alix Ohlin

Dual Citizens is a novel by Alix Ohlin. (House of Anansi Press)

In Ohlin's novel Dual Citizens, Lark Brossard is a supporting character in the lives of her artistically talented loved ones: her sister Robin is a wild and brilliant pianist, while her sometime lover Lawrence is a famous filmmaker. When Lawrence tells her he doesn't want children, Lark re-examines her life and takes control of her story.

"Alix Ohlin's novel, true to its title, quietly refutes monolithic tenets that regard identity as something fixed and singular. Dividing its narrative between Canada and the U.S., the urban and the wild, solitude and solidarity, creativity and caregiving, Dual Citizens is a long-term sororal love story and affecting double-portrait of female self-actualization untethered from established paradigms of ambition" the jury said in a statement.

Ohlin is the chair of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia. She is also the author of the novel Inside and the short story collection Signs and Wonders.

Lampedusa by Steven Price

Steven Price is the author of Lampedusa. (McClelland & Stewart)

In Price's novel Lampedusa, the last prince of Lampedusa, Giuseppe Tomasi, faces the end of his life in 1950s Sicily. He spends his final days labouring over the manuscript of his novel, The Leopard, which he believes will be his lasting legacy.

"Lampedusa is a fairy tale about a dying prince, the last of his line, the real-life Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of the beloved Italian novel The Leopard. Steven Price powerfully imagines Tomasi's final days as the ailing author struggles to complete and publish his treasured manuscript. Set in a post war Palermo of bombed-out buildings and ruined palazzos, the novel contemplates what values are worth retaining in life and in art," the jury said in a statement.

Price lives in Victoria. He is also the author of the novel By Gaslight.

Reproduction by Ian Williams

Ian Williams is the author of Reproduction. (Sinisa Jolic/CBC)

Reproduction is about Felicia and her teenage son Army. After they move into a basement apartment, they bond with the house's owner and his two children. But strange gifts from Army's wealthy, absent father begin to arrive at their doorstep, inviting new tensions into the makeshift family's lives. 

"Reproduction is many things at once. It's an engrossing story of disparate people brought together and also a masterful unfolding of unexpected connections and collisions between and across lives otherwise separated by race, class, gender and geography. It's a pointed and often playful plotting out of individual and shared stories in the close spaces of hospital rooms, garages, mansions and apartments, and a symphonic performance of resonant and dissonant voices, those of persons wanting to impress persuade, deny, or beguile others, and always trying again," the jury said in a statement.

Williams is a poet, who has previously been shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize for his collection Personals. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.