Quill and Quire

Books of the Year

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Books of the Year 2010: Fiction and Poetry

Joan Thomas (McClelland & Stewart)

Set in the coastal town of Lyme Regis, ­England, some 40 years before Darwin ­published The Origin of Species, Curiosity tells the story of the intertwining lives of two historical characters: Mary Anning, a self-taught paleontologist who made some of the most important discoveries of her day, and Henry De la Beche, a high-born misfit drawn to Mary’s unique gifts. A bookseller ­favourite, Winnipeg author Joan Thomas’s­ second novel delivers on the promise of her debut, 2008’s Reading by Lightning, which won the Commonwealth Prize and the ­Amazon.ca First Novel Award. In part about the spirit of passionate inquiry that drove early scientific discoveries, Curiosity is also the story of an impossible love. Readers will savour the moving bond that develops between two unique people whose lives might never have intersected but for their passion for unearthing fossils, wrote reviewer Amy Sands Brodoff in April’s Q&Q. Curiosity is without question the best novel this reader has come across in the past year.

The Sky is Falling
Caroline Adderson (Thomas Allen Publishers)

Caroline Adderson deftly conveys modern anxiety in her third novel, about a university student whose involvement with a group of anti-nuke activists leads to unintended consequences. The book’s protagonist, Jane Z., is a student of Russian literature in love with the work of Chekhov, which is utterly appropriate: Adderson shares the classic Russian writer’s spare, unadorned style and talent for imbuing the minutiae of daily existence with vibrant fictional life.

Michael Lista (House of Anansi Press)

Not yet 30, Michael Lista (an occasional Q&Q reviewer) has already shaken up the Canadian poetry world with his startlingly ambitious first book. Modelled after James Joyce’s Ulysses, Lista’s collection is a suite of poems that follows a day in the life of Louis Slotin, a Canadian physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. Each poem is written in the style of a ­different poet “ Ted Hughes, Irving Layton, ­Robert Lowell, etc. But far from an act of simple mimicry, Bloom is a testament to Lista’s poetic virtuosity. Writing in June’s Q&Q, reviewer Shane Neilson commented, So much in Bloom is quotable, so much is considered. The book is homage and meta-­homage. It is also the first shot from a writer who will undoubtedly become an important Canadian poet.