Have you read any of the books that made it to the short list for the Scotiabank Giller prize yet? You can vote for your favourite of the five novels and be eligible for prizes by visiting the Muskoka Lakes Library website and clicking on the ‘Guess’ banner (www.muskoka.com/library). Anne Michaels’s book The Winter Vault has remained in the first place ranking from the onset of the contest, followed closely by the other four entries. Which author do you think deserves the $50,000 prize?
Weaving historical moments with the quiet intimacy of human lives, The Winter Vault, set in Egypt and Canada and with flashbacks to England and Poland after the Second World War, tells of the ways in which we salvage what we can from the violence of life. It is the story of a husband and a wife trying to find their way back to each other; of people and nations displaced and uprooted and of the myriad means by which we all seek out a place we can call home. It is a breathtaking and heartbreaking novel about the inescapability of memories, the devastation of loss, and the restorative power of love.
Sitting in the number two spot is The Disappeared by Kim Echlin. After more than 30 years Anne Greves feels compelled to break her silence about her first lover, and a treacherous pursuit across Cambodia's killing fields. Once she was a motherless girl from reserved immigrant stock. Defying fierce opposition, she falls in love with Serey, a gentle rebel and exiled musician. She's still only 16 when he leaves her in their Montreal flat to return to Cambodia And, after a decade without word, she abandons everything to search for him in the bars of Phnom Penh, a city traumatized by the Khmer Rouge slaughter. Against all odds the lovers are reunited, and in a political country where tranquil rice paddies harbour the bones of the massacred, Anne pieces together a new life with Serey. But there are wounds that love cannot heal, and some mysteries too dangerous to know. And when Serey disappears again, Anne discovers a story she cannot bear.
Ranked third by voters so far, is Linden Macintyre’s The Bishop’s Man. Father Duncan MacAskill has spent most of his priesthood as the "Exorcist" - an enforcer employed by his bishop to discipline wayward priests and suppress potential scandal. He knows all the devious ways that lonely priests persuade themselves that their needs trump their vows, but he's about to be sorely tested himself. While sequestered by his bishop in a small rural parish to avoid an impending public controversy, Duncan must confront the consequences of past cover-ups and the suppression of his own human needs. Pushed to the breaking point by loneliness, tragedy and sudden self-knowledge, Duncan discovers how hidden obsessions and guilty secrets either find their way to the light of understanding, or poison any chance we have for love and spiritual peace.
Annabel Lyon holds the fourth ranked position with The Golden Mean. As the story opens, Aristotle must postpone his dream of succeeding Plato at the Academy in Athens when he is forced to tutor Alexander, a prince of Macedon. At first the philosopher is appalled at living in the brutal backwater of his childhood, but soon he is drawn to the boy's intellectual potential and his capacity for surprise. But is Aristotle's mind any match for the warrior culture that is Alexander's birthright? Told in the frank, earthy and engaging voice of Aristotle himself, and bringing to life a little known time and place, The Golden Mean traces the true story of this remarkable friendship. With sensual and muscular prose, Lyon reveals how Aristotle's genius influenced the boy who would conquer the known world.
Fall, by Colin McAdam holds the fifth position as ranked by voters thus far. A place of pressure and contradictions, St. Ebury is an exclusive boarding school for the children of Canada's elite, where boys must act as men while navigating their adolescence, a mixed school with only a handful of girls. Fall is the most beautiful. Noel, a clever, ghostly loner, is certain that one day Fall will come to know him deeply. But like everyone else, she is drawn to Julius, the confident and magnetic son of the American ambassador to Canada. At the beginning of their final year, the two boys room together and while Julius grows physically closer to Fall, Noel's boisterous enthusiasm shades into something darker. A disturbing and unforgettable story of guilt, memory, and confused identity.