Shadow Giller Winner for 2023 Giller Prize

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Tonight at 9 p.m. (EDT) the official winner of the Giller Prize will be announced. In a welcome return, the host for tonight’s event is Rick Mercer.

As per usual custom, the Shadow Giller announces its choice for its winner the night before. We did post quickly on our Twitter and Facebook pages, and I’m posting from the Literary Hoarder site over the Shadow Giller one, as much of what I’ll write following the Shadow Giller’s winner will mostly be my opinion about this year’s Giller Prize lists.

Anyway, while our choice may not have been the unanimous one, All the Colour in the World by C.S. Richardson is the Shadow Giller winner.

Here is what the Shadow Giller jurists had to say about our choice for the winning book:

Lindy: Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein was actually Lindy’s top choice, as it mesmerized her from the beginning and because of all of the layers it contained. However, she did feel All the Colour in the World was impressive and it had the added bonus of leaving the reader with a feeling of hope, which is a precious thing these days, so she had no issue with conceding the winner to be Richardson.

Jolene: While not in love with any of the Shortlist this year, the only one that stuck out was All the Colour in the World. Jolene noted that no book received a 5-star rating as most were a bit of a slog to get through for her.

Penny: All the Colour in the World was the only one from this list that made me feel like it was worthy of literary achievement. This book was so beautiful. Once I fell into its way of writing, I fell deeply in love with it, with its juxtaposition of art, artists and colour against Henry’s life and experiences and feelings. Beautiful. In my opinion, All the Colour in the World is a literary achievement and I hope its awarded as such. (The only one to receive my 5-star rating from the list.)

So… on to personal thoughts about this year’s Giller Prize and its Long-and -Shortlists: This year is the 30th Anniversary of the Giller Prize. You would imagine there would have been perhaps more splash and more of an honorary feeling about it to recognize this significance wouldn’t you? I certainly would have thought so, but everything about this year’s selections felt limp, lacklustre and “meh”. (Shadow Giller member Jolene remarked on this as well with her comments about slogging through and having a difficult time in mustering enthusiasm for any of the books on the Shortlist.)

I read one short story collection from the Longlist and was left unenthused. The collection lacked sophistication and specialness to be included in this literary prize’s offerings, in my opinion. After finishing it, it did really pin down some of my overall feelings for the Longlist and for the Prize overall. I couldn’t help but feel like we were seeing lists in recent years with an emerging writer focus over anything else. I was often thinking that perhaps the Giller should create an off-shoot of its prize with something similar to what Kobo has in its Emerging Writer Prize. Now I’m definitely not saying there isn’t room in the Giller Prize for the first-time novelist, and maybe I should just keep quiet on it, but I truly couldn’t help having this overall feeling, especially this year. I have more to say too on the Shortlisted books, but I’ll just say that outside of Study for Obedience, I felt the other three to be negligible in my opinion. I will keep repeating that – it is only my opinion. It may not be yours, and I understand that, but I am only sharing my opinion.

There were other disgruntled voices however concerning this year’s lists as well. For instance, our Shadow Giller member Lindy speaks with Shawn Moody / The Book Maniac on his YouTube channel each year following the Longlist announcement. Shawn expressed his dismay about seeing no Indigenous authors on this year’s list. And I would say that absence is quite significant as well, especially in this 30th anniversary year! There were a number of eligible Indigenous authors and this became a significant absence especially when pondering what Paul Vermeersch on Twitter (X?) posted.

Paul really zeroed in on something I felt quite unsettling about this year’s Shortlist, this 30th Anniversary moment, when posting on his enthusiasm for this year’s Governor General’s Literary Awards (GGBooks) finalists. He stated, “After a year when some Canadian literary prizes have turned their backs on Canadian writers, it’s a balm to see the #GGBooks2023 shortlist announcement. These are Canada’s national literary awards. Our own. And this year’s shortlists are exciting!

This is a direct shot at the Giller Prize! It had to be. And I have to say, I was happy to see it expressed. This year’s Shortlist holds authors with tenuous ties at best to be considered Canadian writers. Definitely, the inclusion of Eleanor Catton on the (Long- and) Shortlist should ruffle feathers. Come on now. What a massive disappointment it would be should she claim this year’s prize.

I’ll be tuning in to tonight’s broadcast with one ear perhaps. I am happy to see the return of Rick Mercer to host, but I’ll more than likely tune out most of the hour and hope to heaven that C.S. Richardson is rewarded!