Dear Eve­lyn takes home prize

Kathy Page, El­iz­a­beth Hay among 2018 Writ­ers’ Trust Awards win­ners

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - ENTERTAINMENT - AD­INA BRESGE

TORONTO — Bri­tish-Cana­dian au­thor Kathy Page choked back tears as she thanked her par­ents for the love let­ters that in­spired her book, Dear Eve­lyn, which won the $50,000 Rogers Writ­ers’ Trust Fic­tion Prize on Wed­nes­day night.

The wartime ro­mance, pub­lished by Bi­b­lioa­sis, tracks the 70-year union be­tween the work­ing-class Harry Miles and the strong-willed Eve­lyn Hill as their re­la­tion­ship is tested by global con­flict, the chal­lenges of child rear­ing and the pur­suit of in­di­vid­ual mean­ing in a shared life.

Page, who lives in Salt Spring Is­land, B.C., told the crowd at CBC’s Glenn Gould Stu­dio in Toronto that it took her eight years to write Dear Eve­lyn, partly be­cause of her strug­gle to wres­tle with its un­usu­ally per­sonal sub­ject mat­ter.

In an in­ter­view af­ter ac­cept­ing the award, Page said that in a sense, she felt she was shar­ing the hon­our with her par­ents.

“So much of our shared life was be­hind the writ­ing of it,” she said. “And the whole of my life, which they ob­vi­ously deeply in­flu­enced, pro­pelled me ul­ti­mately to this book.”

She said some pas­sages in the novel were adapted ver­ba­tim from her fa­ther’s cor­re­spon­dences with her mother dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, mak­ing him a “co-au­thor” of sorts. But she said it was only when she per­mit­ted her­self to take lib­er­ties with the source ma­te­rial that the story re­vealed it­self.

“It was so emo­tion­ally in­tense ... that al­though I wanted to do it, I also re­sisted do­ing it,” said Page. “I feel I un­der­stood them both dif­fer­ently, and un­der­stood quite a lot about life.”

Page, who has twice been nom­i­nated for the Sco­tia­bank Giller Prize for her works of short fic­tion, beat out four other con­tenders, in­clud­ing awards dar­lings Esi Edugyan and Rawi Hage, for the $50,000 prize.

Jury mem­bers Ann Y.K. Choi, Mireille Sil­coff and Robert Wiersema, who read 128 books sub­mit­ted by 54 pub­lish­ers in the selec­tion process, praised Dear Eve­lyn as a “time­less page-turn­ing mas­ter­piece.”

Page was among seven au­thors be­ing hon­oured at the 2018 Writ­ers’ Trust Awards, which gave out more than $260,000 in prizes Wed­nes­day night.

Ot­tawa-based au­thor El­iz­a­beth Hay won the $60,000 Hi­lary We­ston Writ­ers’ Trust Prize for Non­fic­tion for All Things Con­soled: A Daugh­ter’s Mem­oir (McClel­land & Ste­wart), which de­tails her ex­pe­ri­ence act­ing as a guardian and care­giver to her par­ents.

“Hay’s prose el­e­vates this or­di­nary rite of pas­sage — the death of one’s par­ents — to some­thing rare and poetic,” raved jury mem­bers Michael Har­ris, Donna Bai­ley Nurse and Joel Yanof­sky. “Page af­ter page this is a mas­ter class in ob­ser­va­tion — a les­son in how mean­ing can emerge from grief.”

Hay said in an in­ter­view that she in­tended the mem­oir as a trib­ute to her late par­ents, and while she thinks they would be thrilled about her win, she wouldn’t want them to read the book.

“It’s a book I couldn’t have writ­ten when they were alive, be­cause there were things in it that would have hurt them,” said Hay. “(Par­ents), are our first char­ac­ters. My par­ents were a for­mi­da­ble pair .... I stud­ied them, I en­dured them, I loved them for 60 years, so that means I spent 60 years with th­ese char­ac­ters. For a writer, that’s a gift.”

Hay, who won the 2002 Writ­ers’ Trust En­gel/Find­ley Award and the Giller in 2007, was among five fi­nal­ists who made the short list for the $60,000 prize, billed as the rich­est an­nual lit­er­ary award for a book of non-fic­tion by a Cana­dian writer.

The fi­nal­ists for the fic­tion and non-fic­tion prizes each re­ceived $5,000.

Ac­claimed Win­nipeg-based au­thor David Ber­gen, who won the Giller in 2005 for The Time in Be­tween, was hon­oured with the $25,000 Matt Co­hen Award cel­e­brat­ing a life­time of dis­tin­guished work by a Cana­dian writer.

Toronto’s Alissa York re­ceived the $25,000 Writ­ers’ Trust En­gel/ Find­ley Award rec­og­niz­ing a writer of fic­tion for their mid-ca­reer body of work.

Jor­dan Scott of Roys­ton, B.C., took home the $25,000 Lat­ner Writ­ers’ Trust Po­etry Prize, which hon­ours a mid-ca­reer poet for their mas­tery of the form.

Wind­sor, Ont.-based Christo­pher Paul Cur­tis, a for­mer Michi­gan auto worker who has writ­ten sev­eral books of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion for chil­dren, won the $25,000 Vicky Metcalf Award for Lit­er­a­ture for Young Peo­ple.

Shashi Bhat of New West­min­ster, B.C., was the win­ner of the $10,000 Writ­ers’ Trust/McClel­land & Ste­wart Jour­ney Prize, which hon­ours the best short story pub­lished by an emerg­ing writer in a Cana­dian lit­er­ary mag­a­zine, for Mute, which ju­rors de­scribed as a darkly funny take on academia and pop cul­ture.

Mute was pub­lished by The Dal­housie Re­view, which was awarded $2,000. The other two short story fi­nal­ists re­ceived $1,000.

ROGERS WRIT­ERS TRUST FIC­TION PRIZE

Au­thor Kathy Page has won the $50,000 Rogers Writ­ers’ Trust Fic­tion Prize for Dear Eve­lyn, a wartime ro­mance in­spired by love let­ters be­tween her own mother and fa­ther.

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