Atwood, Gilmour, Boyden among big names in Canadian fall book season
Margaret Atwood poses for a photo as she promotes her new book "MaddAddam" in Toronto on Wednesday August , 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, August 26, 2013 8:43AM EDT
TORONTO -- New novels from Margaret Atwood, David Gilmour and Joseph Boyden along with memoirs by politician Michael Ignatieff and sports legends Bobby Orr and George Chuvalo are among the homegrown highlights for readers this fall.
Heavyweight titles tend to crop up between August and December as publishers and book sellers try to cash in on the holiday season sales spike.
"Christmas is still our biggest book-selling and consumers' book-buying time of year," says Scott Sellers, vice-president and director of marketing strategy at Random House of Canada.
This fall is also important because it leads into book awards season and winter, when more time is spent indoors.
"Sometimes you just look up from your book and you're like, 'Nah, I think I'm going to stay in.' All the more reason to stock up," says Nicole Winstanley, president and publisher of Penguin Group Canada.
Topping the list for many CanLit lovers will no doubt be Atwood's futuristic "MaddAddam" (McClelland & Stewart, Aug. 27) which ends her imaginative dystopian series that began with 2003's "Oryx and Crake" and continued with 2009's "The Year of the Flood." The eminent Booker and Scotiabank Giller Prize winner from Toronto set the new story months after a man-made pandemic has devastated humanity.
Gilmour tackles end-of-life issues with "Extraordinary" (Patrick Crean Editions, Aug. 2), about a man who helps his half-sister prepare for her planned assisted suicide. The publisher says the touching family tale may well be the "very best work of fiction to date" from the Toronto-based 2005 Governor General's Award winner for "A Perfect Night to Go to China."
"The Orenda" (Hamish Hamilton Canada, Sept. 10) is Toronto-raised Boyden's gripping and gruesome follow-up to his Giller-winning 2008 novel "Through Black Spruce." Featured is a French Jesuit missionary, a young Iroquois girl and her Huron warrior captor amid tribal, cultural and spiritual clashes in mid-1600s Canada.
"I think it's a literary masterpiece," says Winstanley. "He takes everything that you know about the birth of our nation, about this time period, and he twists it a little bit by using perspective."
Sellers says Ignatieff gets "incredibly honest" in "Fire and Ashes" (Random House, Sept. 24), in which he muses on his experiences as a politician. According to the publisher, the prolific author and former Liberal Party of Canada leader feels it's "the most difficult book he's ever written."
With "Orr: My Story" (Viking, Oct. 15), the beloved hockey great from Parry Sound, Ont., offers a rare look at his personal life, from his shy childhood to his superstardom and conflict with his agent. He also reflects on his career and the hockey world today.
"What you really take away from Orr is his approach to life," says Winstanley. "It's a really interesting one because he did face -- despite his unbelievable, unmatched talent -- obstacles, whether it was injury or the kind of rags-to-riches, back to rags, back to riches."
Toronto-born Chuvalo also delves into raw territory with "Chuvalo: A Fighter's Life" (HarperCollins Canada, Oct. 29), detailing his tough childhood, triumphant boxing career and string of family tragedies involving drugs and suicide.
Iris Tupholme, vice-president, publisher and editor-in-chief at HarperCollins Canada, says "it's a very candid book" that the publishing world has been hoping to release for many years.
"I think what is amazing about this book is that he has an incredible memory for detail and he's able to remember the most extraordinary things about people he's met and events of which he's been part."
Sarnia, Ont.-born Chris Hadfield, meanwhile, follows up his recent mission to the International Space Station with "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" (Random House, Oct. 29). The first in a two-book agreement, it has Hadfield detailing his upbringing as well as his astronaut training and missions.
Other much-anticipated novels out this season include "The Son of a Certain Woman" (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, Sept. 17) by Toronto-based Wayne Johnston, winner of the inaugural Charles Taylor Prize for non-fiction and finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust, Giller and Governor General's awards. It's the story of a St. John's boy who has a "congenital disfigurement" and lives with his attractive mother in a fiercely Catholic society.
Six Scottish orphans in 1879 Toronto are the focus of "My Ghosts" (Knopf Canada, Sept. 10) from Mary Swan, a Giller and Commonwealth Prize finalist from Guelph, Ont. The family's decades-old secrets are probed by a contemporary descendant.
Toronto-based Anthony De Sa's "Kicking the Sky" (Doubleday Canada, Sept. 10) features 12-year-old Antonio Rebelo, a character in his 2008 Giller-finalist short story collection "Barnacle Love." Antonio's dreams of summer freedom in 1977 Toronto are dashed by the rape and murder of a young shoeshiner, a real-life tragedy that struck the city.
"If anybody who grew up in Toronto during the 1970s, during the Emanuel Jaques murder case, it just hits a chord," says Sellers.
"Minister Without Portfolio" (Hamish Hamilton, Aug. 27) comes from Newfoundland-raised Michael Winter, a former Giller and Commonwealth Writers' Prize nominee. The protagonist is a troubled Newfoundland contractor who travels to Afghanistan to flee relationship woes.
In "Come Barbarians" (HarperCollins, Sept. 24) by former Giller longlister Todd Babiak of Edmonton, a man is also trying to leave his past behind. In this case, he goes to the south of France with his child and wife, whose disappearance sends him down a dangerous path.
Vancouver-based author/artist Douglas Coupland, who's been longlisted twice for the Giller, writes of a "dreadful" cameraman named Raymond Gunt in "Worst. Person. Ever." (Random House Canada, Oct. 8). The globetrotting journey includes a "Survivor"-style reality show, multiple comas and a nuclear war.
Cary Fagan, a Toronto native who's also been on the Giller long list, offers a coming-of-age story set in the 1930s with "A Bird's Eye" (House of Anansi, Aug. 31). The young protagonist falls for a girl and for magic in his Jewish neighbourhood.
Paris and Italy in 1968 is where we find the protagonist of "The Figures of Beauty" (HarperCollins, Sept. 24) from Toronto's David Macfarlane, a Giller finalist for his '99 novel "Summer Gone."
Last year, Toronto's Craig Davidson made headlines when his 2005 debut short story collection, "Rust and Bone," became an acclaimed film starring Oscar winner Marion Cotillard. Now, he's out with "Cataract City" (Doubleday Canada, Sept. 3), about two childhood friends from Niagara Falls.
"I think Craig is really great exploring issues like redemption and the grey areas of morality, of what constitutes right and wrong, and I think in this book he just hits it out of the park," says Sellers.
Erotic fiction fans will get the second book in the "S.E.C.R.E.T." trilogy, written by a Canadian with the pseudonym L. Marie Adeline. "S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared" (Doubleday Canada, Oct. 15) finds widow Cassie Robichaud guiding a new candidate for an underground sexual fantasy society.
And in the thriller vein, Toronto-raised bestseller Linwood Barclay's "A Tap on the Window" (Doubleday Canada, Aug. 6) follows private investigator Cal Weaver as he gets involved in a web of trouble after picking up a hitchhiking teenage girl.
Other famed Canadian faces with books out this fall include musician Robbie Robertson with "Legends, Icons & Rebels" (Tundra Books, Oct. 8), co-authored by his son, Sebastian Robertson, and music managers Jim Guerinot and Jared Levine.
Former CBC broadcaster Don Newman offers the memoir "Welcome to the Broadcast" (HarperCollins, Oct. 22).
Former prime minister Joe Clark has "How We Lead Canada in a Century of Change" (Random House, Nov. 5).
And Lawrence Hill, author of the Commonwealth and Writers' Trust prize-winning novel "The Book of Negroes," is behind this year's CBC Massey Lectures publication, "Blood: The Stuff of Life" (Anansi, Sept. 28).
"There's just so much good stuff," says Sellers. "It's like this embarrassment of riches on the Canadian side of things."