Books·Canadian

The Sentimentalists

Johanna Skibsrud's debut novel won the Scotiabank Giller prize when she was 30 years old, making her the youngest ever winner of the prize.

Johanna Skibsrud

Haunted by the vivid horrors of the Vietnam War, exhausted from years spent battling his memories, Napoleon Haskell leaves his North Dakota trailer and moves to Canada. He retreats to a small Ontario town where Henry, the father of his fallen Vietnam comrade, has a home on the shore of a man-made lake. Under the water is the wreckage of what was once the town — and the home where Henry was raised.

When Napoleon's daughter arrives, fleeing troubles of her own, she finds her father in the dark twilight of his life, and rapidly slipping into senility. With love and insatiable curiosity, she devotes herself to learning the truth about his life; and through the fog, Napoleon's past begins to emerge. (From Douglas & McIntyre)

The Sentimentalists won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2010.

Read an excerpt | Author interviews

From the book

The house my father left behind in Fargo, North Dakota, was never really a house at all. Always, instead, it was an idea of itself. A carpenter's house. A work in progress. So that even after we moved him north to Casablanca, and his Fargo home was dragged away — the lot sold to a family from Billings, Montana — my father was always saddened and surprised if the place was remembered irreverently, as if it had been a separate and incidental thing; distinct from the rest of our lives. In this way, he remained, until the end, a house carpenter. If only in the way that he looked at things. As if all objects existed in blueprint; in different stages of design or repair.


From The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud ©2011. Published by W.W. Norton & Co.

Author interviews

The youngest recipient of the prestigious Giller Prize discusses her debut novel The Sentimentalists and her surprising win 5:14
Keith Hollihan on "The Four Stages of Cruelty". Richard Wagamese answers the Proust Questionnaire. Eric Wright on "A Likely Story". Linwood Barclay on the day job that proved to be the defining experience of his life. Johanna Skibsrud on her Giller-winning novel "The Sentimentalists". 53:59