The 1998 Giller Prize - Shortlist

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André Alexis
McClelland & Stewart

Set in a Southern Ontario town close to the U.S. border in the 1950's and '60's, and in Ottawa in the years that follow, Childhood is narrated by Thomas MacMillan. Through his clear-eyed vision and his unsentimental ordering of events, we meet the novel's cast of characters. Among them are: Edna MacMillan, Thomas's volatile, unpredictable Trinidadian grandmother; and Katarina, the mother who left him at birth and then ten years later, in the company of the sinister Mr. Mataf, swoops him up and takes him from Petrolia. Soon after, we meet Henry Wing, a Black man with Chinese blood, a gentle conjurer who lives in faded Victorian splendour, and whose life's work as a self-styled scientist is collecting esoteric facts of the natural world.

André Alexis was born in Trinidad in 1957 and grew up in Canada. His collection of short stories, Despair and Other Stories of Ottawa was published in 1994 and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize, Canada and Caribbean region. His short stories have appeared in literary journals and in anthologies. He has written for radio and for the theatre, has been playwright-in-residence at the Canadian Stage Company, and is a contribution editor for This Magazine as well as a regular book reviewer for The Globe and Mail. André Alexis lives in Toronto, where he is at work on his next novel.

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Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Alfred A. Knopf Canada

As Augusta Olsen anxiously awaits news of her son-in-law, undergoing brain surgery miles away, she worries and reminisces, reliving the story of her life. When her mother died, Augusta was bereft and without direction until she married her first suitor, Karl, the shy son of a detestable farmer. As a young woman with an eye for beauty who longed for affection, she found life on their remote farm almost unbearable. When the local Reverend offered occasional afternoon relief from her isolation, she accepted; when another man from the town showed an interest, a less platonic relationship ensued. Eventually, she and Karl and their young daughter, Joy, moved to a farm of their own, and Augusta looked for new ways to assert her independence. But it is not until she resurrects her mother's beekeeping equipment that possibilities become evident and the strands of her life unexpectedly unite.

Gail Anderson-Dargatz grew up in rural British Columbia and graduated from the University of Victoria with a B.A. in Creative Writing. Her first collection of short stories, The Miss Hereford Stories, was published in 1995 and was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Award. Her novel, The Cure for Death by Lightning, published in 1996, won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, the VanCity Book Award, the Betty Trask Prize in England, and was shortlisted for The 1996 Giller Prize. Gail Anderson-Dargatz and her husband Floyd now live on a farm outside Edmonton.

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Barbara Gowdy

Mud is a young elephant cow, orphaned at birth and blessed with visionary powers. For many years, she and her adoptive family roam the plains of Africa until prolonged drought forces them to stay close to one of the few remaining water holes. It is there that ivory poachers find them and kill, or drive off, almost all the cows and their young. Mud, now an adolescent and pregnant with her first calf, sets out with the wounded and traumatised survivors in search of the injured. Guided by visions, memories and hallucinations as much as by their incredible sense of smell, the ruined herd hears rumours of The Safe Place and the white bone that can lead them there. The quest becomes one of endurance, sacrifice, and ultimately, transcendence, as the elephants struggle for their own lives and the continuation of their kind.

Barbara Gowdy is the author of novels including Falling Angels and most recently, Mister Sandman, and the short story collection, We So Seldom Look on Love. Shortlisted for both the Governor General's Award for Fiction and The Giller Prize in 1995, Mister Sandman was Margaret Atwood's Book of the Year in The Times Literary Supplement, a Village Voice choice for Favourite Book of the Year, a Newsday Favourite Book of 1997 and a Publishers Weekly Book of the Year. She is the winner of The 1996 Marian Engel Award and the 1992 Torgi and the recent film 'Kissed' is based on her short story, "We So Seldom Look on Love." Barbara Gowdy lives in Toronto.

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Greg Hollingshead
A Phyllis Bruce Book / HarperFlamingoCanada

When Tim Wakelin, a grieving widower, heads north in search of a story about a local healer named Caroline Troyer, he enters a world that is real yet strange. At first intent on exposing her, Tim is instead drawn into a brutal, unforgiving world where familiar landmarks disappear and extraordinary events unfold. Even the landscape itself - the ancient rock, myriad lakes and cathedral forests of the Canadian Shield - becomes a source of threat. Caroline, cursed as much as blessed with the mysterious power to heal people simply by touching them, comes to believe that Tim might provide the sanctuary she needs, if he has the strength to survive the violent forces unleashed by his arrival. Their lives intersect as they chase demons, real and imagined, that haunt them both.

Greg Hollingshead is the author of one previous novel, Spin Dry, and three short story collections, Famous Players, White Buick, and most recently, The Roaring Girl, which won the Governor General's Award for Fiction in 1995. In 1993, he won both the Georges Bugnet Award for the Novel and the Howard O'Hagan Award for Short Fiction. Widely published in literary magazines in both Canada and the U.S., he has also been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Smith's/Books in Canada First Novel Award. Greg Hollingshead lives with his family in Edmonton.

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Wayne Johnston
Alfred A. Knopf Canada

A fictional biography of Newfoundland's first and best-known Premier, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams uses the few known facts about Joey Smallwood's personal life - and the fictional character of Sheilagh Fielding - as points of departure for a fictional portrait of a man and a time. Spanning five decades, the novel traces the connected lives of Smallwood, who claws his way up from obscurity, and Fielding, who turns away from her father's affluence to become an eloquent and popular newspaper columnist, a gifted satirist who casts a shadow on Smallwood's life and career. The narrative moves from St. John's to New York City to the principalities of Europe, from the harrowing ice floes of the seal hunt to the lavish drawing rooms of aristocrats while their saga is played out against the backdrop of Newfoundland history.

Wayne Johnston is the author of four previous novels. In 1986, The Story of Bobby O'Malley won the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award. The Time of Their Lives, published in 1988, won The Canadian Author's Association Award for Most Promising Young Writer, and The Divine Ryans, published in 1990, won Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. The film version of The Divine Ryans will be released in the fall of 1999 and Wayne Johnston's first work of non-fiction, a personal memoir of Newfoundland, is also due out next year. Born and raised in Newfoundland, Wayne Johnston now makes his home in Toronto.

Alice Munro
McClelland & Stewart / A Douglas Gibson Book

All of these eight new stories are about what people will do for love, and the unexpected routes their passion will force them to take. An old landlady in Vancouver who alarms the just-married narrator with her prim advice about married life is shown to have conspired when young in a crime of passion. A young mother, at the mercy of the "radiant explosion" that comes when she thinks of her secret life, abandons her children to be with her lover in the story "The Children Stay." A gruff old country doctor in the 1960's is discovered by his daughter to be helping desperate women, his "special patients." Many of the stories track the changes that time brings to families, lovers, and even to friends who share old, intimate secrets about "the prostration of love" in a collection that is clear-eyed about the clutter of our emotional lives.

Alice Munro has won the Governor General's Award three times, for Dance of the Happy Shades (1968), for Who Do You Think You Are? (1978), and for The Progress of Love (1986), which was also selected as one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times. Her last new collection, Open Secrets, won the W.H. Smith Award for the best book published in the UK in 1995. In 1996, The New York Times listed Selected Stories among the top eight fiction books of the year, and in December 1997, she was the first non-American to receive the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction.

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