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Northern Reflections: Canadian Fiction

Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro are two well-known Canadian authors who are currently writing award-winning fiction. Atwood has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times and won the award in 2000 for The Blind Assassin. Her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, was published in 2009. Munro recently published a short story collection titled Dear Life and was the winner of the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work.


There are also other talented writers from Canada that have won prestigious literary awards in the past several years. The Booker Prize was awarded to Michael Ondaatje for The English Patient in 1992 and to Yann Martel for Life of Pi in 2002. Canadian authors are also recognized for literary excellence in their own country through various awards, the two most notable being the Governor General's Literary Award and the Giller Prize.

The following books were nominated for either or both of these prizes and provide a sampling of the promising talent that is emerging in Canadian literature.

Richard B. Wright's Clara Callan won both the Governor General's Award and the Giller Prize in 2001. It is the story of two sisters' experiences in a small town in Ontario on the verge of World War II. Nominated for the Giller Prize in 2001, The Stone Carvers, by Jane Urquhart, is the poignant story of Klara, whose first love was killed during World War I, and her brother Tilman, who lost a leg in battle. They travel to France to participate in the construction of the Vimy Memorial and in so doing they rebuild their damaged lives.

Garbo Laughs, Elizabeth Hay's quirky novel about family relationships, was nominated for the 2003 Governor General's Award. Hay was awarded the Giller prize in 2007 for Late Nights on Air. This novel is based in part on Hay’s experience as a radio journalist and is set in a radio station in the Northwest Territory. Another winner of the Giller Prize was The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud. With his health declining, Vietnam War veteran Napoleon Haskell is moved by his family to a Canadian lakeshore house owned by the father of one of his deceased war buddies.

Canada is a multicultural nation and Canadian authors often explore their roots or immigrant experiences. Austin Clarke was born in Barbados and immigrated to Canada in the 1950s. His novel, The Polished Hoe, tells the story of the impoverished life of a plantation woman in post-colonial Barbados. Sandra Birdsell wrote about the persecution of the Mennonites in revolutionary Russia and their subsequent immigration to Canada in Katya (published as The Russlanders in Canada).

If you have any questions on the above titles please stop by the Readers Advisory Desk on the 2nd floor of the library or call 814-3987.