The 1998 Giller Prize - Shortlist
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.