Books

Who will win the $100K Scotiabank Giller Prize? Five books on 2018 shortlist revealed

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan and French Exit by Patrick deWitt are among the five books on this year's shortlist. The winner will be announced on Nov. 19, 2018.
The winner of the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize will be announced on Nov. 19, 2018. (CBC)

The Scotiabank Giller Prize, a $100,000 literary award given to the year's best work of Canadian fiction, has revealed its five-book shortlist, including 2011 winner Esi Edugyan for Washington Black and past finalist Patrick deWitt for French Exit.

Thea Lim is also on the shortlist for her novel An Ocean of Minutesalong with Eric Dupont for Songs of the Cold of Heart, which was translated from French by Peter McCambridge, and Sheila Heti for Motherhood.

The shortlist was selected by a jury that is comprised of Canadian writers Kamal Al-Solaylee and Heather O'Neill, Toronto International Film Festival executive Maxine Bailey, English novelist Philip Hensher and American writer John Freeman.

The winner will be announced at the Scotiabank Giller Prize Gala on Nov. 19, 2018. 

The show will be hosted by comedian Rick Mercer and broadcast on CBC television at 8 p.m. local time (12:30 a.m. AT/1:00 a.m. NT).

CBC Radio One will broadcast a special presentation featuring The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers and q books columnist Jael Richardson at 8 p.m. (9 p.m. AT/9:30 p.m. NT).

CBC Books will also stream the broadcast online at CBCbooks.ca at 8 p.m. ET.

The 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner was Michael Redhill for the novel Bellevue Square.

Keep reading to learn more about each of the books.

French Exit by Patrick deWitt

Patrick deWitt's latest novel is French Exit. (House of Anansi Press)

Patrick deWitt's tragicomic novel follows the fates of Frances Price and her son Malcolm, who live in aristocratic elegance in New York. When their vast fortune runs out, the pair head to Paris with their cat Small Frank, whom Frances believes is her dead husband. deWitt, a novelist in Portland, Ore., by way of Vancouver Island, was previously shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011 for The Sisters Brothers and longlisted in 2015 for Undermajordomo Minor.

From the jury: "A 'tragedy of manners' about people out of sync in the world, this novel is disconcertingly funny. It strikes postures where a more conventional writer would have been sincere and humourless. Its subjects are effrontery, wealth, death and bad manners. Many of the greatest novels are about nothing so very important, and they last because they are done beautifully. French Exit shows Patrick deWitt's literary mastery and perfect ear. It's an immaculate performance on ice, executed with sharp shining blades, lutzing and pirouetting above unknowable black depths."

Songs for the Cold of Heart by Eric Dupont, translated by Peter McCambridge

Songs for the Cold of Heart is a novel by Eric Dupont, translated by Peter McCambridge. (Sarah Scott/QC Fiction)

Billed as a "big fat whopper of a tall tale," Montreal writer Eric Dupont's fourth novel traverses time and space with comedic ease. From Rivière-du-Loup in 1919 to Nagasaki, 1990s Berlin, Rome and beyond, Dupont's winding tale is carried by a cast of idiosyncratic characters as they contend with the worldly events of the last century. At 604 pages, Dupont's epic novel has the distinction of being the longest book on this year's shortlist. Dupont is also a former Combat des livres winner, Radio-Canada's version of Canada Reads, for the book La Logeuse.

From the jury: "Once upon a time in Quebec there was a girl named Madeleine. A tiny red headed waif with only a suitcase in her possession steps off a train in a frozen village, and a strapping Quebec man falls head over heels in love with her strangeness. A baby is born from this union that is so big, it manages to kill both its parents in childbirth. As magnificent a work of irony and magic as the boldest works of Gabriel García Márquez, but with a wholly original sensibility that captures the marvellous obsessions of the Quebecois zeitgeist of the 20th century. It is without a doubt, a tour de force. And the translation is as exquisite as a snowflake."

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Washington Black is a novel by Esi Edugyan. (Tamara Poppitt/HarperCollins Canada)

Victoria, B.C.-based writer Esi Edugyan's third novel, Washington Black, follows an 11-year-old boy known as "Wash" who is enslaved on a Barbados sugar plantation. His master is Englishman Christopher Wilde, who is obsessed with developing a machine that can fly. When a man is killed, Wilde must choose between his family and saving Black's life — and the choice results in an epic adventure around the world for Wash. The novel is also currently shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize and Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Edugyan won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011 for Half-Blood Blues.

From the jury: "How often history asks us to underestimate those trapped there. This remarkable novel imagines what happens when a Black man escape history's inevitable clasp — in his case, in a hot air balloon no less. Washington Blackthe hero of Esi Edugyan's novel is born in the 1800s in Barbados with a quick mind, curious eye and a yearning for adventure. In Black's vivid and complex world — as cruel empires begin to crumble and the frontiers of science open like astounding vistas — Edugyan has written a supremely engrossing novel about friendship and love and the way identity is sometimes a far more vital act of imagination than the age in which one lives."

Motherhood by Sheila Heti

Sheila Heti is the author of Motherhood, a novel. (Malcolm Brown/Knopf Canada)

The unnamed narrator of Sheila Heti's Motherhood spends the novel preoccupied with a single question: should she have children? Searching for a satisfying answer, whether it ultimately be 'yes' or 'no,' the narrator consults her partner, her family and her body, breaking down the philosophical underpinnings of motherhood. Heti has written eight books of fiction and nonfiction, including How Should a Person Be?, and lives in Toronto.

From the jury: "A personal story, a feminist debate, a philosophical reflection on time, genealogy and Art — these are just some of the narrative strands that Sheila Heti weaves into Motherhooda complex and defiant exploration of contemporary womanhood. As her narrator interrogates the spaces between motherhood and childlessness, other paths, emerge, including the possibilities of fiction itself. In her playful but precise prose, Heti turns interiority into an expansive landscape with life-altering implications for her narrator and anyone with an interest in the paradoxes of choice and the randomness of free will."

An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim

Thea Lim is a Toronto-based writer and teacher. (Elisha Lim/ Viking Canada)

When a deadly flu rips through America, Polly Nader makes a drastic decision in order to save her partner Frank. A company called TimeRaiser agrees to pay for life-saving treatment if Polly time travels 12 years into the future, where she can be reunited with Frank and work as a bonded labourer. But Polly is accidentally sent 17 years into a future where Frank is nowhere to be found.

From the jury: "In An Ocean of Minutes, Thea Lim asks the reader to confront contemporary issues — social class, immigration, citizenship, corporate power, poverty and the all too familiar, love and loss. The novel is beautifully written and guides us through a plot that moves backwards and forward — yet, never lets us go."

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