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Fall preview 2011: Canadian fiction

In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at the fall season’s biggest books.

NOVELS

One of the most anticipated releases of the fall season is surely the new novel from internationally acclaimed author Michael Ondaatje, his first since 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award winner Divisadero. Set in the early 1950s, The Cat’s Table (McClelland & Stewart, $32 cl., Sept.) tells the story of an 11-year-old boy crossing the Indian Ocean on a liner bound for England, and the mysterious prisoner shackled on board. • Also from M&S is Guy Vanderhaeghe’s first novel in eight years. Set in the late 19th-century Canadian and American West, A Good Man ($32.99 cl., Sept.) is the third book in a loose trilogy that also includes The Last Crossing (2003) and The Englishman’s Boy, which won the 1996 Governor General’s Literary Award. • A third GG winner has a new novel out this season: David Gilmour, who won in 2005 for his previous novel, A Perfect Night to Go to China. Gilmour returns with The Perfect Order of Things (Thomas Allen Publishers, $26.95 cl., Sept.), the story of a man who revisits traumatic and life-changing incidents from his past.

Marina Endicott follows up her Scotiabank Giller Prize–shortlisted 2008 novel Good to a Fault with The Little Shadows (Doubleday Canada, $32.95 cl., Sept.), about three sisters who become vaudeville singers following the death of their father. • Acclaimed novelist Helen Humphreys returns with an historical novel set in France during the Napoleonic period. The Reinvention of Love (HarperCollins Canada, $29.99 cl., Sept.) is about a French journalist whose affair with Victor Hugo’s wife causes a scandal (as it might be expected to do).

Brian Francis’s debut novel, Fruit, was a runner-up in the 2009 edition of CBC’s battle of the books, Canada Reads. His second novel, Natural Order (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Aug.), tells the story of a mother who is forced to confront the secrets she has kept about her son when her carefully constructed life is overturned by a startling revelation. • Kevin Chong returns to fiction with his first novel in a decade. Beauty Plus Pity (Arsenal Pulp Press, $17.95 pa., Sept.) follows an Asian-Canadian slacker in Vancouver whose incipient modelling career is derailed by the death of his father and the sudden departure of his fiancée.

Requiem (HarperCollins Canada, $32.95 cl., Sept.), the third novel from Frances Itani, is about a Japanese-Canadian who embarks upon a cross-country journey of discovery following the death of his wife. • Anita Rau Badami follows her best-selling novels Tamarind Mem and The Hero’s Walk with Tell It to the Trees (Knopf Canada, $32 cl., Sept.), about the Dharma family – the authoritarian Vikram, the gourmand Suman, and the old storyteller Akka. When the Dharmas’ tenant, Anu, turns up dead on their doorstep, the family’s long-buried secrets begin to boil over. • Gayla Reid returns with her first novel since 2002’s Closer Apart. Set during the Spanish Civil War, Come from Afar (Cormorant Books, $32 cl., Aug.) tells the story of an Australian nurse who falls into a relationship with a Canadian soldier from the International Brigade.

Haitian expat Dany Laferrière is back with his third novel in translation in three years. The Return (Douglas & McIntyre, $22.95 pa., Aug.) tells the story of a 23-year-old Haitian named Dany who flees Baby Doc Duvalier’s repressive regime and relocates to Montreal. Thirty-three years later, Dany learns of his father’s death in New York City, and plots a return to his native country. David Homel translates. • Another Montreal resident, poet Sina Queyras, has a novel out this fall, the author’s first. Autobiography of Childhood (Coach House Books, $20.95 pa., Oct.) is about one day in the lives of five siblings haunted by the death of a brother years before. • Infrared (McArthur & Company, $29.95 cl., Sept.), the new novel by Nancy Huston, is about a photographer who travels to Tuscany with her father and stepmother. Employing internal dialogues with the photographer’s mental doppelgänger, Huston opens up her hero for exposure and provides an intimate picture of her interior life.

CanLit mainstay David Helwig returns with a novella, his first since 2007’s Smuggling Donkeys. Killing McGee (Oberon, $38.95 cl., $18.95 pa., Oct.) tells the story of a professor’s dual obsessions with the assassination of D’Arcy McGee and the disappearance of one of his students. • Toronto-based poet Dani Couture returns with her first novel, a surreal and iconoclastic take on that perennial CanLit staple: the family drama. Algoma (Invisible Publishing, $19.95 pa., Oct.) tells the story of a family attempting to cope with the aftermath of a young child falling through the ice and drowning. • Shari Lapeña also has a novel about a perennial CanLit concern: raising money to allow one time to write poetry. Happiness Economics (Brindle & Glass, $19.95 pa., Sept.) tells the story of a stalled poet who takes a job writing advertising copy to start a poetry foundation.

Jamaican-born novelist, poet, and non-fiction author Olive Senior returns to long-form fiction with Dancing Lessons (Cormorant, $22 pa., Aug.), about a woman looking back on her life after a hurricane destroys her home. • Memoirist Frances Greenslade (A Pilgrim in Ireland, By the Secret Ladder) has a debut novel out this August. Shelter (Random House Canada, $29.95 cl.) is a coming of age story about two sisters searching for their mother, who abandoned them after their father was killed in a logging accident.

Not one, but two novels this season extend the burgeoning CanLit focus on towns that have been/are about to be flooded (after Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists, Anne Michaels’ The Winter Vault, and Michael V. Smith’s Progress). Tristan Hughes’s Eye Lake (Coach House, $19.95 pa., Oct.) is about the town of Crooked River, Ontario. Named for a river that was diverted to make way for a mine, the town harbours secrets that surface when the river reclaims its original course. • And in September, Goose Lane Editions will publish Riel Nason’s The Town that Drowned ($19.95 pa.), about the suspicions, secrets, and emotions that flare up when the township of Haverton is scheduled to be flooded to allow for the construction of a massive dam.

Edward Riche follows up his Thomas Head Raddall Award winner The Nine Planets with Easy to Like (House of Anansi Press, $29.95 cl., Sept.), a satire about a screenwriter and oenophile who dreams of travelling to Paris, but is trapped in Canada by an expired passport and a growing Hollywood scandal. Relocating to Toronto, he bluffs his way into the upper echelons of the CBC. • Former president and CEO of Penguin Canada, David Davidar was forced out of his position under a cloud of scandal after accusations of sexual harassment. Davidar’s new novel, Ithaca (M&S, $29.99 cl., Oct.), is, perhaps not coincidentally, about the rise and fall of a publishing star.

Canadian literary icon Michel Tremblay returns with a new novel, the first in a trilogy. Set in 1913, Crossing the Continent (Talonbooks, $18.95 pa., Oct.) takes the author’s characters out of Quebec for the first time, to tell the backstory of the people who populate his Chroniques du Plateau-Mont-Royal series. Long-time Tremblay collaborator Sheila Fischman translates.

A resident of St. John’s, Newfoundland, lately one of the most fertile spots for Canadian writing, Michelle Butler Hallett crafts genre-busting stories and novels that frequently experiment with gender and perspective. Her new novel, Deluded Your Sailors (Creative Book Publishing, $21.95 pa., Sept.), focuses on the culture industry from the perspective of Nichole Wright, who makes a discovery that puts a government-funded tourism project in jeopardy, and a shape-shifting minister named Elias Winslow. • Another Newfoundland native, Kate Story, has a novel out with Creative this season. The follow-up to 2008’s Blasted, Wrecked Upon This Shore ($21.95 pa., Sept.) tells the story of Pearl Lewis, an emotionally damaged, charismatic woman who is seen at different stages in her life.

In 1972, Christina Parr returns to her hometown of Parr’s Landing, a place she fled years earlier. The dirty secret of Parr’s Landing? A 300-year-old vampire resides in the caves of the remote mining town. Christina learns why she should have stayed away in Michael Rowe’s Enter, Night (ChiZine Publications, $17.95 pa., Oct.). • English literature professor Janey Erlickson struggles to make headway in her academic career while caring for a tyrannical toddler in Sue Sorensen’s comic novel A Large Harmonium (Coteau Books, $21 pa., Sept.). • Paul Brenner, a Vancouver lawyer, dines with his son, Daniel, one Friday evening. The next day, Brenner receives word that his son has been murdered. Hold Me Now (Freehand Books, $21.95 pa., Oct.), the first novel from Stephen Gauer, examines a father’s grief and a lawyer’s faith in the legal system.

SHORT FICTION

Anyone who has ever wondered what might transpire if the author of Bigfoot’s autobiography were to illustrate a story collection by Canada’s reigning postmodern ironist can stop wondering. October sees the publication of Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People (Random House Canada, $24 cl.), the first collaboration between author Douglas Coupland and well-known illustrator Graham Roumieu.

D.W. Wilson currently lives in London, England, but is a native of B.C.’s Kootenay Valley. The winner of the inaugural Man Booker Prize Scholarship from the University of East Anglia, Wilson’s debut collection, Once You Break a Knuckle (Hamish Hamilton Canada, $32 cl., Sept.), is a suite of stories about good people doing bad things.

Novelist Anne DeGrace has her first collection of short stories on tap for September. Flying with Amelia (McArthur & Company, $29.95 cl.) spans the 20th century and crosses vast swathes of territory. Wireless telegraphy, German POWs in Manitoba, the Great Depression, and the FLQ crisis all crop up in her stories. • David Whitton’s story “Twilight of the Gods” was included in the 2010 sci-fi anthology Darwin’s Bastards. The story also appears in Whitton’s first solo collection, The Reverse Cowgirl (Freehand, $21.95 pa., Oct.), which sports the most sexually suggestive title for a collection of CanLit stories since Pasha Malla’s The Withdrawal Method.

Toronto writer Rebecca Rosenblum follows up her Metcalf-Rooke Award–winning debut collection Once (a Q&Q book of the year for 2009) with The Big Dream (Biblioasis, $19.95 pa., Sept.), a collection of linked stories about the lives of workers at Dream, Inc., a lifestyle-magazine publisher. • The Maladjusted (Thistledown Press, $18.95 pa., Sept.), Toronto writer Derek Hayes’ debut collection, focuses on people who run afoul of the dictates of polite society. • Also from Thistledown, Britt Holmström’s Leaving Berlin ($18.95 pa., Sept.) examines contemporary women in both Canadian and European settings.

The fine print: Q&Q’s fall preview covers books published between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2011. All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. • Titles that have appeared in previous previews do not appear here.

  • Chris

    Another Canadian’s novel, coming out in September:

    Blackdog, by K.V. Johansen
    ISBN 9781616145217
    Published by Pyr http://www.pyrsf.com/Blackdog.html

    “Johansen’s characters project believability, and her world is full of rich and vivid detail. High fantasy for lovers of mythology and of powerful beings in human form, this adult fantasy debut should appeal to fans of Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series.” – Library Journal

  • Enns

    But … the big press titles don’t need the flouting – they already have it. Barely any of the looked-for small press titles are here. What a lot of shit.

  • Dave McGowan

    It’s time to start covering the independent authors. Since the established publishing firms and agents are forcing themselves out of business, the only ones releasing entertainment that sells are the self published.
    You have a half dozen examples of great Canadian produced entertainment in your list. You could have a much longer list without elitism.
    Dave
    http://www.dmmcgowan.blogspot.com

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

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