The 2003 Giller Prize - Shortlist

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Margaret Atwood
McClelland & Stewart

As the story opens, Snowman, our narrator, is mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. His search for supplies is hobbled by the insects and pigoons and wolvogs that ravage the pleeblands. Ordinary people once lived there; the extraordinary were sheltered in the Compounds. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes - into his own past, and back to Crake's high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief.

Margaret Atwood’s books have been published in over thirty-five countries. She is the author of more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her most recent novel, The Blind Assassin, won the 2000 Booker Prize. Her other novels include Alias Grace, which won the 1996 Giller Prize, and the Premio Mondello in Italy. Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson. Oryx and Crake is her eleventh novel.

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John Bemrose
McClelland & Stewart

Alf Walker, a fixer with the local textile mill, lives with his family in Island, a small community speckled with white-washed houses, vine-freighted fences and black willows. It’s 1965. Suddenly, this small Southwestern Ontario mill town becomes the target of a large corporate takeover. When workers attempt to unionize, Alf inadvertently sets in motion a series of events that will affect everyone’s future. A parallel story unfolds as Joe, Alf’s oldest son, falls headlong into the tumult of first love. The uncertainty of new love is juxtaposed against Alf’s deepening role in the tensions building at the mill and his unsettling connection with a local Native woman, Lucille Boileau. Set over the course of a single year, the novel reaches back to the past - to Alf’s haunting memories of the Second World War and his brother’s death; to the stories of the town’s founder, Abraham Shade, and those of the eccentric river man Johnny North.

John Bemrose is a contributing editor at Maclean’s, where his articles and profiles appear regularly. He has written for CBC Radio’s Ideas, the National Film Board, The Globe and Mail, and for numerous other publications. Bemrose has written a play, Mother Moon, that was produced by the National Arts Centre, and has published two poetry collections. Bemrose grew up in Paris, Ontario, the place that inspired the setting for this story. John Bemrose has lived in Toronto since 1970. The Island Walkers is his first novel.

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John Gould
Turnstone Press

John Gould’s ‘micro-fictions’ are subtle and startling fusions of humour and pathos that examine Canadian lives from many unexpected angles: a woman puzzles over the identity of her lost brother; a husband cites a sixteenth century portrait to explain his lover to his wife; a dead man laments the suicide note he failed to write. With spare, elegant prose Gould crafts quirky gems, compact fusions of humour and pathos. His fictions are full of individuals catching odd glimpses of themselves, of big ideas working themselves out in the minutiae of modern lives. Each of these finely wrought works gives us a pure moment, a fulcrum from which we witness a life tilting from kilter to off-kilter and back again.

John Gould is the author of a previous collection of micro-fiction called The Kingdom of Heaven: Eighty-Eight Palm-of-the-Hand Stories. His work has also appeared in chapbooks and in literary periodicals across the country. He has written various kinds of freelance non-fiction, including essays and reviews. In recent years, Gould ran writing programs for the BC Festival of the Arts, is now Executive Director of the Victoria School of Writing, and serves on the editorial board of the Malahat Review. He lives in Victoria with his wife and stepchildren.

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Ann-Marie MacDonald
Knopf Canada



It’s a tranquil post-war world, and for Madeleine McCarthy, a high-spirited eight-year-old, life on a quiet air force base in Ontario is at first welcome, secure as she is in the love of her family and unaware that her father has secrets to keep. The early sixties, optimistic and brimming with the excitement of the space race, overshadowed by the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through a child’s rich imagination as Madeleine draws us into her world. Suddenly, tragedy strikes and a very local murder intersects with global forces, binding the air force base’s participants for life. As the tension in the McCarthy household builds, Jack must decide where his loyalties lie, and Madeleine learns about the ambiguity of human morality. It’s a lesson she will only begin to unearth as she carries her quest for the truth, and the killer, into adulthood twenty years later.

Ann-Marie MacDonald is a novelist, dramatist and the author of the bestselling play Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). Her first novel Fall On Your Knees (1996) became an international bestseller, and was published in 21 countries. Winner of the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book as well as numerous other literary awards, Fall On Your Knees also became a selection of Oprah’s Book Club. The novel sold over 300,000 copies in Canada and over 1 million in the U.S. Ann-Marie MacDonald lives in Toronto.

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M.G. Vassanji
Doubleday Canada

It is 1953 in colonial Kenya, and eight-year-old Vikram Lall witnesses the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, even as the Mau Mau guerrilla war challenges British rule. Vic and his sister Deepa must find their place in this uncertain world of violent upheaval, confusing loyalties and conflicting ideologies. The brother and sister, who are of Indian origin, find themselves in between their newly-acquired playmates - the British Bill and Annie, and the African Njoroge. These friendships will haunt them the rest of their lives. The In-Between World of Vikram Lall is told in the voice of the exiled Vic from the shores of Lake Ontario, as he contemplates the historical events that have shaped him and the choices he has made.

M.G. Vassanji was born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania. Before coming to Canada in 1978, he attended M.I.T., and later was writer in residence at the University of Iowa. Vassanji is the author of four acclaimed novels: The Gunny Sack (1989), which won a regional Commonwealth Prize; No New Land (1991); The Book of Secrets (1994), which won the inaugural Giller Prize as well as The Bressani Prize; and Amrika (1999) He is also the author of a collection of short stories, Uhuru (1992). M.G. Vassanji lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons.

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