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Fall preview 2012: Canadian novels

The season of high-profile literary awards and author festivals is on its way, and there’s no shortage of new releases from marquee names. In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the fall’s biggest books.

It’s been nearly 20 years since Susan Swan published The Wives of Bath, the coming-of-age story of Mary Mouse Bradford at a private girls’ school in the 1960s. The Western Light (Cormorant Books, $29.95 cl., Aug.) is a prequel to that classic, relating Mary’s early life in Northern Ontario and her relationship with her emotionally distant father. The novel features at least one character who could easily become a CanLit archetype: John Pilkie, a retired NHL star and convicted murderer. ¢ Annabel Lyon follows up her lauded 2009 first novel with another story of ancient Greece. The Sweet Girl (Random House Canada, $29.95 cl., Sept.) picks up where The Golden Mean left off, telling the story of Aristotle’s daughter Pythias, who, after the death of her famed father, must make her way in a hostile world.

Scotiabank Giller Prize winner David Bergen returns to the small-town Manitoba setting of his earliest novels in The Age of Hope (HarperCollins Canada, $27.99 cl., Aug.), which follows 50 years in the life of Hope Koop, a seemingly ordinary woman who must deal with the demands of being a wife and mother. ¢ In what is being billed as the author’s most ambitious work to date, Bill Gaston‘s epically titled The World (Hamish Hamilton Canada, $32 cl., Sept.) weaves together five storylines that touch on illness, suffering, and love betrayed. The novel begins comically enough, when a recently divorced retiree burns down his house on the day he finally pays off his mortgage.

The always acerbic Cordelia Strube follows up her well-received 2009 novel, Lemon, with another story centering on a loveable misfit. In Milosz (Coach House Books, $19.95 pa., Sept.), Milo must contend with any number of unlikely mishaps, including the fact that his father may have returned from the dead. ¢ Humorist Terry Fallis (author of the novels The Best Laid Plans and The High Road) mostly leaves behind Parliament Hill in his third novel, Up and Down (Douglas Gibson Books/McClelland & Stewart, $22.99 pa., Sept.), in which the protagonist steps down from his job in Ottawa to join a Toronto PR firm tasked with reviving public interest in the Canadian Space Agency. ¢ Todd Babiak takes an even bigger stylistic turn with his fifth novel, The South of France (Harper­Collins Canada, $19.99 pa., Oct.), described as a high-stakes novel about murder, revenge, loyalty, and loss. The Edmonton-based author is known for his comic novels including The Garneau Block, The Book of Stanley, and Toby: A Life.

In his sophomore literary effort, CS Richardson (better known to publishing folk as Scott Richardson, creative director at Random House of Canada) appears to return to the fable-like quality of his debut, The End of the Alphabet. The Emperor of Paris (Doubleday Canada, $25 cl., Aug.) tells of the unlikely romance between an illiterate Parisian baker and a book-loving art restorer at the Louvre. ¢ Speaking of writers who work in publishing, Goose Lane publicist and former librarian Corey Redekop follows up 2007’s Shelf Monkey with Husk (ECW Press, $18.95 pa., Oct.), a story about an everyzombie who must contend with his unending appetite for human flesh while also dealing with his stalled acting career, his aging mother, and his uninspiring boyfriend.

The first Canadian title to win the Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie, Jocelyne Saucier‘s And the Birds Rained Down (Coach House, $18.95 pa., Oct.), translated from the French by Rhonda Mullins, features characters who have chosen to eke out their existences in a remote forest. ¢ Marie-Renée Lavoie‘s first novel, Mister Roger and Me (House of Anansi Press, $22.95 pa., Sept.), won the Radio-Canada Combat des livres competition (the equivalent of CBC Canada Reads) when it appeared in Quebec in 2010. The novel, translated by Wayne Grady, is a coming-of-age tale about a tomboy in a working-class neighbourhood.

As the only novelist to win the Scotiabank Giller Prize twice (Alice Munro has earned repeat victories for her short story collections), M.G. Vassanji has received his share of acclaim. The Magic of Saida (Doubleday Canada, $32.95 cl., Sept.), about a successful Canadian doctor who returns to his East African homeland to find his childhood sweetheart, will no doubt be highly anticipated by readers and booksellers alike. ¢ Shauna Singh Baldwin returns with her first novel since 2004’s Giller-shortlisted The Tiger Claw. The Selector of Souls (Knopf Canada, $29.95 cl., Sept.) is about the intersecting paths of a Hindu midwife and a Christian missionary in an Indian town.

Chris Gudgeon is a screenwriter, a magazine journalist, and the author of 17 books of non-fiction. His first novel, Song of Kosovo (Goose Lane Editions, $29.95 cl., Sept.), is about a young man growing up during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. ¢ Breakwater Books will also publish a coming-of-age story set in the same period. Braco ($19.95 pa., Sept.), which follows a 14-year-old boy attempting to flee the Srebrenica massacre, is by Lesleyanne Ryan, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran who served in the region.

If you’ve ever asked yourself, What is a calligrammatic novel? you may want to read Love and the Mess We’re In (Gaspereau Press, Sept.) to find out. Written by Stephen Marche, no stranger to bold literary experimentation, the novel uses a series of text-shapes drawn from various print cultures to tell the story of a love triangle set in Buenos Aires and Ontario. ¢ Poet and philosopher Jan Zwicky (whose collection Forge was nominated for this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize) has a curious new fiction out this fall. The Book of Frog (Pedlar Press, $20 pa., Sept.) is about a frog-shaped piece of ancient granite that seemingly gains sentience and takes a keen interest in its modern surroundings. ¢ In the surreal novel The Lava in My Bones (Arsenal Pulp Press, $16.95 pa., Sept.), by ReLit Award winner Barry Webster, a frustrated Canadian geologist becomes obsessed with eating rocks.

Viking Canada has described Newfoundland-born author Donna Morrissey‘s fifth novel as The Stone Angel of the East Coast. The Deception of Livvy Higgs ($32 cl., Sept.) is about an ailing woman forced to pick apart the lies and secrets buried in her past. ¢ Cape Breton“based author Lesley Crewe‘s sixth novel, Kin (Nimbus Publishing, $19.95 pa., Sept.), is a multigenerational family saga that begins in 1930s Glace Bay.

Poet Susan Musgrave, author of some 27 books, has a new novel. Given (Thistledown Press, $19.95 pa., Oct.) picks up the story of characters from 2000’s Cargo of Orchids. ¢ The prolific Lee Maracle returns with a new novel. Daughters Are Forever (Theytus Books, $18.95 pa., Aug.), based on Salish Nation storytelling, depicts the transformation of a First Nations woman who draws strength from her culture and the natural world.

In 2012, the multi-talented Susan Glickman is set to publish no fewer than three books in as many genres. This spring saw the release of the latest title in her children’s series (Bernadette to the Rescue) and her sixth poetry collection (The Smooth Yarrow). Coming in August is The Tale-Teller (Cormorant, $21.95 pa.), an historical novel set in 18th-century New France, about a young woman who poses as a man to gain entry into the colony. ¢ Novelist and poet Mark Frutkin returns with his first novel since 2006’s Fabrizio’s Return, winner of the Trillium Book Award. A Message for the Emperor (Véhicule Press, $19.95 pa., Sept.) tells of a journey across imperial China to deliver a series of paintings to the emperor.

Donna Milner‘s third novel, Somewhere in Between (McArthur & Company, $24.95 pa., Sept.), is about a married couple that buys a cattle ranch in remote B.C., only to discover they have also inherited a reclusive and mysterious tenant by the name of Virgil Blue. ¢ Octogenarian author and playwright Rachel Wyatt returns with her first novel since 2010’s Letters to Omar. Suspicion (Coteau Books, $19.95 pa., Sept.) tells of the deteriorating relationships between friends and neighbours when a local woman disappears in a small town.

Halifax author Ian Colford‘s first novel is an epic story of political intrigue and family secrets. Set in an unnamed South American country, The Crimes of Hector Tomas (Freehand Books, $21.95 pa., Oct.) tells what happens when the eldest son of a seemingly ordinary family is exiled to the isolated countryside after uncovering a long-buried secret. ¢ Gillian Campbell‘s debut is a novel about two solitudes set in 1970s Quebec. The Apple House (Brindle & Glass, $19.95 pa., Sept.) is the story of an anglophone woman who returns to her hometown after the death of her francophone husband, only to discover that all is not as she left it.

Creativity and criticism don’t always mix, but Annette Lapointe seems to have found the right balance. The Manitoba-based CanLit and gender studies prof won a pair of Saskatchewan Book Awards for her first novel, 2006’s Stolen. She follows it up with Whitetail Shooting Gallery (Anvil Press, $20 pa., Oct.), which is also set in the desolate Saskatchewan prairie. The new novel involves family violence, the rebellious daughter of an evangelical minister, and a hockey-obsessed young man.

Q&Q‘s fall preview covers books published between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2012. ¢ 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 been listed in previous previews do not appear here.