Scotiabank Giller Prize Shortlist 2020

The Giller Prize shortlist was announced this morning. Between now and November 9th, the Shadow Jury will be reading and reviewing these books, as well as picking a winner in advance of the official winner. Will we be any better at predicting the winner than we were at predicting the shortlist?

You can find all our predictions, thoughts, and reviews at Shadowing the Best of CanLit.

This year’s shortlist…

Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson, House of Anansi

Jury’s Thoughts:Drawing richly on both the Western and on gothic fiction, Adamson evokes a mythic landscape to frame the question: how is it possible to live a good life, when obedience to man-made laws is so at odds with love, loyalty and respect for the natural world?

My Thoughts: I thought this was a good book with a great story and excellent writing, but for some reason didn’t expect to see it on the shortlist. (My Review)

Here the Dark by David Bergen, Biblioasis

Jury’s Thoughts:Sexual loneliness and moral confusion pull at the delicately wrought characters in David Bergen’s latest work, a story collection of masterly skill and tension… His pages light up; all around falls into darkness.”

My Thoughts: There are three short story collections on the longlist and two made it to the shortlist. I was hoping one would be Dominoes at the Crossroads. However, it’s been a while since I read this book, so I think I will have to re-visit it. (My Mini-Review)

Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo, Book *hug Press

Jury’s Thoughts: “A keen meditation on the complexities of identity and desire, Polar Vortex is the unsettling examination of a failing marriage… Memories cascade and clash as Mootoo masterfully dismantles the stories the narrators tell themselves in language as unsparing as winter.”

My Thoughts: I’m not surprised to see this on the list. It’s the only one I haven’t read yet, but I’m looking forward to it. (My Review)

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, HarperCollins

Jury’s Thoughts: A boldly lyrical tale echoing the deceit and ruin of the 2008 financial crisis… the novel commands a broad array of characters and a plot of kaleidoscopic intricacy…. Emily St. John Mandel turns her gifted attention to the mirages of now, and to the truth that we are haunted, always, by the lives of others.”

My Thoughts: I loved this book and am happy to see it on the shortlist. (Even though I didn’t predict that it would be!) (My Review)

How To Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa, McClelland & Stewart

Jury’s Thoughts:How to Pronounce Knife is a stunning collection of stories that portray the immigrant experience in achingly beautiful prose. The emotional expanse chronicled in this collection is truly remarkable. These stories are vessels of hope, of hurt, of rejection, of loss and of finding one’s footing in a new and strange land. Thammavongsa’s fiction cuts to the core of the immigrant reality like a knife – however you pronounce it.

My Thoughts: I’m thrilled to see this on the list. And it’s the only one all three of the jury members predicted. (My Review)

What are your thoughts on the list? Surprises? Disappointments? Predictions?

22 thoughts on “Scotiabank Giller Prize Shortlist 2020

  1. annelogan17 says:

    I loved Ridgerunner and am so glad to see it on the shortlist (as well on the writers trust shortlist!). I wonder if it will make the GG list too? Obviously I loved the Knife stories, and Glass Hotel was entertaining. I really want to read Shani Mootoo’s book now….

  2. buriedinprint says:

    I was a little surprised to see Polar Vortex advance, but I haven’t read several of the longlisted books yet either, so I don’t have an opinion/thoughts on how it might compare to those. Annabel Lyon’s book is the one I’m currently reading (which didn’t advance obvs.) and Thomas King’s Indians on Vacation is next after that, I think (it didn’t advance either, which I was a little surprised about, because he’s such a heavy hitter in general, but I haven’t read this particular title of his).

    • Naomi says:

      It’s kind of funny that we can be surprised at seeing what advances and what doesn’t even though we haven’t read all the books yet. But of course we can!
      I’m about to start Polar Vortex. 🙂

      • buriedinprint says:

        I’m so curious to see how all the longlisted ones that I haven’t read compare to Mootoo’s. This is the first year (in ages? in all?) that I had actually read all the shortlisted books (well, I had 100 pages left in Ridgerunner the day it was announced) and was missing most of the longlisted ones instead. Opposite of my usual “luck”.

  3. BookerTalk says:

    I have The Glass Hotel lined up to read (unlikely to get to it before announcement day though). I like the variety in this list but it can’t make it easy for the judges to have to compare short stories with novels…..

  4. Susan says:

    So does that mean since you all picked How to Pronounce a Knife — you think it will or should win the Giller? Short fiction is a bit different than a novel … hmm. I will try to read a couple of these before Nov. 9. Seems like some strong candidates.

    • Naomi says:

      Not necessarily… it just means we all thought the jury would choose it. Now we have to re-think all the books that were chosen! Is there one here that jumps out at you as one you’d like to read right away?

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