Home Books 2020 Giller Prize: I just hope everyone has a good time

2020 Giller Prize: I just hope everyone has a good time

by Carly-Ann

Though I’ve been following the Giller Prize process over the past few years, it was last year when I made myself the promise that in 2020 I would read the whole list. Unlike the majority of other goals for this year, this one mostly went to plan. Mostly. Of the 14 shortlisted books, I’ve read 12 and still have plans to read the remaining two. As of Saturday morning, I have read all five of the longlisted books.

I imagined that once I’d met that milestone, I’d have strong feelings, knowing exactly which book I felt was most deserving of taking home the $100000 purse and/or which authour I would reward if the prize were mine to give away. In reality, what I have found was that I am no closer to picking a favourite than I was before I started.

In the weeks since the longlist was announced, I’ve attended at least two online events with each of the nominated writers and that hasn’t made it any easier to choose just one. In fact, I am firmly in a place of total neutrality. They’ve all grown on me as people and their reflections on their works have added to my experience of reading them.

These five books are truly great examples of Canadian fiction and I recommend them all for different reasons. They are (listed in the order that I read them):

The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel
The jacket says that it “paints a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, love and delusion, unintended consequences, and the ghosts of our pasts.” There isn’t much I’d add. A threat, a Ponzi scheme, a woman’s disappearance all woven together in a beautiful and haunting story.
Here the Dark by David Bergen
This is a collection of seven short stories and one novella. Short stories don’t always appeal to me. When it comes to fiction, I tend to like to commit to more. Bergen, however, shows off a mastery of the craft with rich characters and strong relationships. His portrayal of intimate and often (always?) complex connections between strangers, partners and families alike made this book wonderfully compelling.
How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa
How to Pronounce Knife is a collection of fourteen short stories with strong voices and deep emotions. Her stories are haunted by the unnamed loneliness and isolation of being a stranger in a new land, both literally and figuratively. It’s beautiful.
Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo
I’ve struggled with how to share this book because I struggled so much with reading it. It was written with an impeccably precise array of voices and a gorgeous assembly of words. The moments were so perfectly painted that, as the reader, I could feel them tick by as though I was in the room. It’s a very powerful and deeply intricate body of writing.
Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson
Ridgerunner was the most challenging of the finalists as it was far outside my usual genres and I had to really push myself to keep going despite the fact that Adamson’s writing is exquisite. It is precise and delicate in contrast to a story that is rough and dirty. I persevered because of that until I got to a point where I couldn’t wait to turn a page. Her straight facts approach to telling the story make the twists and turns she weaves into it even more shocking and effective. 

Now, we’re one day away from the announcement of the winner and I can honestly say that I will be happy with whoever takes home the prize. And I will most certainly cry about it.

Watch the presentation November 9th on CBC (here’s how to watch go here) or join me at the Giller Light Bash to benefit Frontier College, a national charitable literary association starting at 5:30pm PST.

P.S. If you’re into reading and books, join me on my new Instagram page: carlyisreading.

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