Monday, December 27, 2010

Giddy for Giller Part 1: The Bishop's Man

In the last year, I've become particularly fond of the Giller Awards.  It started when I did a consulting gig at Shortcovers (now Kobo).  I thought I was bookish but the folks there were (are) hardcore.  I had heard much excitement about the Giller ceremony, the Giller Party, the "this is not the Giller party".  So I decided to check it out.  About 10 minutes in, I was completely hooked, totally infatuated.  C'mon - any kind of awards ceremony, broadcast live on tv, that finishes in one hour?? Yes, it's only five books but hour?  Brilliant.

Truth be told, I had no idea who was shortlisted.  I just took a blind leap, flipped it to Bravo and settled in.  The result?  I have come to the conclusion that the producers of every award show on earth (Academy Awards, Emmys, you name it), should look to the Giller award show as a model.  Secondly, I have become an ardent Canadian literature fan.  It's quite a surprise because I've avoided it like the plague for years, I've also talked about it here on the blog but in reality, the majority of what I'm reading and what I want to read is Canadian.

So, immediately after the Gillers, I went out and bought the winner (The Bishop's Man) and one of the other shortlisted books (The Golden Mean).

The Bishop's Man is one of the most subtly beautiful books I've read.  Acclaimed journalist (and author) Linden Macintyre does an extraordinary job of developing his main character, Father Duncan MacAskill.  Duncan has the unenviable task of being the bishop's "clean up" man.  He takes care of priests whose indiscretions are threatening to create, basically a PR problem, for the church.  The undercurrent of the sexual abuse scandals facing the Catholic church, particularly on the east coast of Canada, is a constant throughout the novel, without it ever being explicitly discussed.  The beauty of Duncan's character is the coolness with which he dispatched his duties.

When he is assigned to act as a parish priest, as a sort of "cooling off" period from his official duties, Duncan's own crisis of faith begins to evolve.  Flashbacks to his own childhood, mixed in with a budding relationship with a young boy in town who he suspects was a victim of the one of the priests that he "relocated", added to which are the attentions of the local women, and one in particular, which stir up more painful memories of a lost passion, a lost love.

Father Duncan is as complex a character as you will find.  Layer upon layer is added on to him.  But Macintyre maintains his humanity, and his likeability.  He is an extremely sympathetic character.  With a backdrop of the beautiful landscapes of the Maritimes, The Bishop's Man is a great read all around.

This book hooked me on the Gillers.  I now have a stack on my nightstand from the 2010 awards.  But, those are for another post.   Next up: Socrates and Alexander the Great from the imagination of Annabel Lyon.

The Bishop's Man
Linden Macintyre
Random House of Canada