TORONTO – A debut novel from filmmaker David Cronenberg, a short story collection by literary treasure Margaret Atwood, and autobiographies by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and hockey legend Gordie Howe are among the homegrown highlights of what publishers tout as a diverse and robust fall book landscape in Canada.
New novels from revered Canuck writers including Ann-Marie MacDonald, David Bergen, Johanna Skibsrud, David Bezmozgis and Michael Crummey are also on the docket for the brisk book-buying season.
“December/January, those are still your biggest months in terms of book sales,” says Scott Sellers, vice president and associate publisher at Random House of Canada.
“People do buy books throughout the year, but the fall still has that big significance because of the Christmas-buying season and the post-Christmas buying season.”
Cronenberg, director of films including “The Fly” and “A History of Violence,” makes his first foray into the literary scene with “Consumed” (Hamish Hamilton Canada, Sept. 30). The story of a young journalist investigating a grisly cannibalism murder in Paris is “very Cronenberg-esque” and “will not disappoint,” says his publisher.
“It’s an absolutely riveting debut that is really, I think, every bit as brilliant and twisted as his films,” says Beth Lockley, vice president of marketing and publicity for Penguin Group of Canada.
“I think this will really surprise people how naturally he’s transitioned to a literary writer. … It’s absolutely unapologetic, it’s provocative, it’s absolutely intoxicating, it’s sexually charged, it’s dark.”
Like Cronenberg, the ever-prolific Atwood gets “deadly serious” with “The Stone Mattress” (McClelland & Stewart, Sept. 9), her first short story collection since 2006’s “Moral Disorder.” The nine stories in the book are also “dazzlingly inventive and rewarding” and filled with Atwood’s signature dark humour and playfulness, says her publisher.
Meanwhile, Trudeau is said to be candid and thoughtful about his life and Canada’s future in “Common Ground,” (HarperCollins Canada, Oct. 21).
“Justin is known for being a person to look you straight in the eye and tell you what he thinks, and I know very well that that is what he’ll do in the book,” says Iris Tupholme, publisher and editor-in-chief of HarperCollins Canada.
Also getting personal is Howe in “Mr. Hockey” (Viking Canada, Oct. 14), which details his life from his Depression-era roots in a farmhouse in Saskatoon to his five-decade career and his strong relationships with wife Colleen and their two sons.
Several other Canadian hockey players are also opening up about their lives this fall.
In “All the Way” (Viking, Oct. 21), Jordin Tootoo writes about being the first hockey player of Inuk descent to take the ice in the NHL, and his struggles with addiction and losing his brother. Clint Malarchuk’s “The Crazy Game” (HarperCollins, Oct. 21) reveals the anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder he battled while goaltending. And in “The Great Defender” (FENN-M&S, Nov. 4), Larry Robinson writes about his 20 seasons playing in the NHL.
Making a long-awaited return to the literary scene is MacDonald with “Adult Onset” (Knopf Canada, Sept. 30), her first novel since 2003 Giller finalist “The Way the Crow Flies.” The new story follows a semi-retired Toronto author whose old illness flares up along with tensions in her life.
A small-town Alberta writer who moves to Paris is the focus of “Leaving Tomorrow” (HarperCollins, Sept. 16) by Bergen, a book awards favourite who won the 2005 Scotiabank Giller Prize for “The Time In Between.”
“This book is, I think, vintage Bergen — deeply satisfying, because it’s so insightful about the relationship between a father and a son,” says Tupholme. “It’s deeply resonant.”
With “Quartet for the End of Time” (Hamish Hamilton, Sept. 23), Skibsrud features four characters who intersect during the Bonus Army Riots of 1932 in Washington, D.C. It’s Skibsrud’s first novel since her 2010 Giller-winning “The Sentimentalists.”
“I think what Johanna does so brilliantly is she just has a beautiful way of capturing a moment in time and sort of the mood and feeling,” says Lockley. “Her prose … is just so rich and dense and beautiful, so that’s all here as well.”
Bezmozgis, a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize winner and Giller finalist, details a day in the life of a disgraced Israeli politician in “The Betrayers” (HarperCollins, now on shelves). Tupholme says “it’s compact and compelling and filled with tension.”
And in Crummey’s “Sweetland” (Doubleday Canada, now on shelves), the 2001 Giller finalist writes of a Newfoundland resident who refuses to accept a government compensation package to resettle.
Sellers gushes it’s a “spectacular novel.”
“It’s a novel of our time in Canada in that it chronicles this moment of time where traditional way of life is disappearing, in terms of the Newfoundland outports where people are being resettled,” he says, “and yet it’s also about the incredible hold that the past can still have on us as individuals.”
Other Canadian novels creating buzz this season include “Man” (Random House, now on shelves), the eagerly awaited second novel by Kim Thuy after her Governor General’s Literary Award-winning debut “Ru.” “Man” is the name of the female protagonist, who marries a Vietnamese restaurateur and becomes a chef in Montreal.
“The Back of the Turtle” (HarperCollins, out now) is the first literary novel in 15 years from Thomas King, an acclaimed writer who won major non-fiction prizes earlier this year for “The Inconvenient Indian.” The protagonist is a scientist who visits his mother’s native reserve community only to find it gone.
“This book, I think, is one of his finest,” says Tupholme. “It is a brilliant mix of mythologies of native beliefs and Christianity and it’s very funny as well.”
“Love Enough” by much-lauded Dionne Brand (Knopf Canada, Sept. 30), winner of a Griffin Poetry Prize and Governor General’s Award, features several characters with intersecting lives.
Carrie Snyder’s “Girl Runner” (House of Anansi Press, Sept. 6), about a centenarian former Olympic athlete, has already been sold into nine territories and “was one of the buzziest books” at Frankfurt Book Fair, says her publisher.
The psychological thriller “Walt” (Anansi, Sept. 13) is Russell Wangersky’s follow-up to his Giller finalist “Whirl Away.”
And “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel (HarperCollins, Sept. 9), about the fallout from the death of a stage star, is touted by the publisher as its most important book acquired last fall.
Big non-fiction offerings include “And Home was Kariakoo” (Doubleday, Oct. 14), in which two-time Giller winner M.G. Vassanji writes about of his birthplace of East Africa.
Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” (Knopf Canada, Sept. 16) is described as “her most provocative book yet.”
And retired astronaut Chris Hadfield compiles the best of the thousands of photos he took on the International Space Station in “You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes” (Random House, Oct. 14).
Memoirs with big names attached to them include “Hurricane Hazel” by long-serving Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion (HarperCollins, Oct. 21); “Rumours of Glory” by singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn (HarperCollins, Nov. 4); “Where I Belong” by Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle (Doubleday, Oct. 14); and hockey commentator Don Cherry’s “Straight Up and Personal” (Doubleday, Nov. 4).
Between the big names and vast range of offerings, “there’s a little bit of something for any reader out there,” says Lockley. “It’s definitely an exciting fall for us.”
Adds Tupholme: “I would just simply say it’s a blockbuster list. These are books across every category that readers will want to read, and having read so many of them myself, I can say that there’s something here for almost everybody.”