Same old story? Canada begs to differ.

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Last week I lamented the lack of fresh new voices in what is shaping up to be an all-blockbuster holiday book season. But when I sent up my prayers for some truly original novels, little did I know they’d be answered by Canada. Today the shortlist was announced for Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize, and get this: all five finalists are first or second novels or short story collections by new authors, only one of whom was published by a major mainstream publisher.

This prestigious prize has previously gone to the likes of Michael Ondaatje for Anil’s Ghost, Margaret Atwood for Alias Grace, Rohinton Mistry for A Fine Balance, and Alice Munro for Runaway and The Love of a Good Woman… now there’s some distinguished company for relatively new authors. According to the CBC, this year Munro graciously declined nomination serve on the jury for the competition instead, paving the way for newcomers to receive the CDN$40,000 first prize (runners-up get CDN$2500 each).

So who are these upstarts? Drumroll, please:

  • Rawi Hage for De Niro’s Game (out in January), about two best friends trying to survive the civil war in Beirut.
  • Vincent Lam for Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, about ordinary medical students faced with extraordinary ethical dilemmas.
  • Pascale Quiviger for The Perfect Circle (out in January), about an Italian love affair that’s romantic from afar – but up close, not so much.
  • Gaétan Soucy for The Immaculate Conception, about a long-lost icon that entangles a lumberjack, a mortician, and a pianist.
  • Carol Windley for Home Schooling (due this month), seven stories about being lost and found in the Pacific Northwest.

What’s your pick for the Giller?

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