Who knew the first official shadow judging panel meeting to decide on our own winner for this fabulous young author award would be so bloody?!? Shouting matches, fist fights, eye scratching, hair pulling and that wild Simon Savidge even tore apart one of the books with his bare teeth in a Bjork-style fury! It was sheer mayhem. Actually, I’m kidding. It couldn’t have been more lovely. Our very organized and excellent chair of judges Dan Dalton kept us well in line. We sat chatting with cups of tea and slices of cake (a lemon-ginger layer cake with toasted marshmallow frosting I baked in honour of Naomi’s birthday) for two hours. We talked in detail and depth about the four totally diverse and absolutely fascinating books nominated for this prize. Honestly, everyone agreed they are all such strong books and all worth reading. But, since we had to choose one, after some well-reasoned arguing we selected our winner. Remember that this is only our shadow jury winner (a fan favourite, if you will) and the official winner will be announced on December 9th.
Our shadow jury winner is Jessie Greengrass for her daring and intelligent book of short stories “An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It”. We agreed that Greengrass is an extremely accomplished, interesting and promising writer. We were compelled by the frequent themes of loneliness and arctic weather in several stories. I particularly admire how Greengrass subtly challenges preconceptions of gender by purposefully leaving it obscure about whether the protagonist is male or female in several of her modern-day stories – similar to what Ali Smith does in her short stories but Greengrass' fiction explores such different ideas. Interestingly, we all had some favourite stories in the collection. Upon rereading many of the stories, I gravitated most towards the emotionally poignant ‘On Time Travel’ and the brutal humour of ‘The Lonesome Trials of Knut the Whaler’. There is such a rich diversity of ideas and subjects explored throughout the collection that I think Greengrass is an extremely exciting new author that you should all watch out for.
Be sure to check the PFD site where they’ve gathered lots of our reactions to all the books listed for the prize and where the official winner of the 2016 award will be listed on December 9th. Let me know your thoughts about our winner or any of the other nominated books!