N.B. writer wins regional Commonwealth Book Prize

Riel Nason, a New Brunswick-based writer, is a regional winner of the Commonwealth Book Prize, recognized in the Canada and Europe category for her debut novel, The Town That Drowned.

Riel Nason, a New Brunswick-based writer, is a regional winner of the Commonwealth Book Prize, recognized in the Canada and Europe category for her debut novel, The Town That Drowned.

The Town That Drowned is Riel Nason's debut novel. (Goose Lane Editions)

She triumphed in a field that included Giller-winner Johanna Skibsrud's The Sentimentalists and Dancing Lessons by  Jamaican-born, Toronto-based writer Olive Senior. Nason now is eligible for the overall Commonwealth Book Prize, her competition being other regional winners from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The Town That Drowned is a coming-of-age story set in a New Brunswick town set to be flooded by a hydro dam. It was published by small New Brunswick press Goose Lane Editions.

Nason grew up in Hawkshaw, N.B., not far from an area of the St. John River where a town was submerged after the building of the Mactaquac Dam in the 1960s. She now lives in Quispamsis, N.B.,with her husband, son and daughter.

The author is a longtime newspaper columnist for the Saint John Telegraph-Journal and has published stories in the Malahat Review, Grain, The Antigonish Review, Room and The Dalhousie Review.

Earlier, The Town That Drowned won the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award and was a finalist for the Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award.

The other Commonwealth Book Prize regional winners:

  • Regional winner, Africa: Jacques Strauss, South Africa, The Dubious Salvation of Jack V (Jonathan Cape).
  • Regional winner, Asia: Shehan Karunatilaka, Sri Lanka, Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, (Random House).
  • Regional winner, Caribbean: Alecia McKenzie, Jamaica, Sweetheart, (Peepal Tree Press).
  • Regional winner, Pacific: Cory Taylor, Australia, Me and Mr. Booker, (The Text Publishing Company).

The overall Commonwealth Book Prize-winner will be announced June 8 at the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts in Wales.