The 2003 Giller Prize - Shortlist
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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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.