Denied! Emma Donoghue’s Room and the seven other biggest Giller Prize snubs
More than a few high-profile titles—Beatrice and Virgil, Ilustrado, Fauna—are conspicuously absent from this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize long list, but no snub was more shocking than the omission of Emma Donoghue’s Man Booker–nominated Room. Prior to the announcement, Room was fully expected to make the Giller short list, and the smart money was that it would ultimately go on to take the win. Good thing we’re not betting people.
In the hope of offering Donoghue some consolation, here’s a look the seven biggest Giller snubs in the prize’s 16-year history. Start the slide show »
No Great Mischief
The jurors for the 1999 prize—Alberto Manguel, Judith Mappin, Nino Ricci—overlooked Alistair MacLeod’s magisterial No Great Mischief for the likes of Bonnie Burnard’s navel-gazing A Good House (the eventual winner). Subsequently, MacLeod’s epic look at the Scots in Canada went on to win the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Canadian Booksellers Association’s Libris Award, and was recently voted the greatest Atlantic Canadian book of all time.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage
When Alice Munro’s 2001 story collection, widely considered among her very best, failed to land a Giller nod, rumours swirled that the author must have pulled the book from contention. Yet her publisher, Douglas Gibson, insists to this day that it was submitted. And why would Munro pull Hateship but not her 2004 Runaway, which ended up winning the prize?
Life of Pi
The same year Munro was snubbed, another soon-to-be-classic was completely passed over: Yann Martel’s fantastical tale of a boy and his tiger, Life of Pi. The slight wasn’t even registered, however, until a year later, when the U.K. edition went on to win the much more prestigious Man Booker Prize. In Canada, it seems, nothing impresses like outside validation.
Natasha and Other Stories
Okay, forget what we just said about outside validation. Though stories from David Bezmozgis’s debut collection, Natasha and Other Stories, were published in The New Yorker in 2004 to great critical fanfare, the book met with a collective shrug from that year’s Giller jurors (M.G. Vassanji, Alistair MacLeod, Charlotte Gray), who gave the award instead to one of Bezmozgis’s oft-cited influences, Alice Munro.
Three Day Road
Throughout 2006, critics, booksellers and readers alike proclaimed their enthusiasm for Joseph Boyden’s debut novel Three Day Road, about two young Cree men who become snipers during the First World War. Meanwhile, new Penguin Canada CEO David Davidar was desperate for the book to become his first serious awards hopeful. So when the Giller jurors announced a bunch of novels few had ever heard of—such as Carol Windley’s Home Schooling, Pascale Quiviger’s The Perfect Circle, and Gaétan Soucy’s The Immaculate Conception—there was rioting in the streets. OK, we’re exaggerating, but it was probably a pretty sad day at Penguin.
Lullabies for Little Criminals
Montreal author Heather O’Neill’s debut novel was somewhat under the radar when the 2006 Giller nominations were announced, but that’s still no excuse for neglecting this vital tale of a young girl attempting to survive life on Montreal’s mean streets. Happily, O’Neill got her revenge a year later when Lullabies won the CBC Canada Reads competition and became a national literary sensation.
The Book of Negroes
No one cried foul when Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes was passed over in 2007, but that was before it won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and evolved into the massive word-of-mouth best-seller it remains today. Here’s betting HarperCollins Canada puts a lot more effort into the awards campaign for Hill’s follow-up.