Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hellgoing by Lynn Coady, winner of the 2013 Giller Prize, reviewed by Charlene Jones

House of Anansi Press | 240 pages | $19.95 for paperback, $16.95 for ebook | available here.

 Hellgoing, the one-word title for Lynn Coady’s latest offerings of twisty characters caught in the ordinary maelstrom of early 21st century life, describes the mood of most stories in this collection. 

In the story of the book’s title, a middle-aged woman reveals herself as a child still caught up in needing Daddy’s approval. It could be written so easily this way, but Coady carefully, gently, with precision like that needed to pick wings off a fly, describes the indelicate, self-absorbed main character, detail by morally decrepit detail, ruthlessly outlining the protagonist’s own careful choice of details to her salivating friends. What to include what to leave out to provide Theresa the best view of herself. For that is what matters, after all, to her and to all the characters inhabiting the collection: what is best for me?

The alcoholic writer, the Nun whose irreverence tosses her into the category of near atheist, the masochistic woman returning from her honeymoon with only the upcoming beating she begs for on her mind – whatever the situation, Coady treats of human beings as morally destitute, narcissistic, empty of redeeming qualities. That she does so without alienating this reader establishes her power as a writer, because in spite of my judgement upon her characters, I turned page after woeful page, caught up in the honesty and originality of Coady’s voice. A natural for this week’s Giller Prize.  

For information about submitting to House of Anansi Press, see here.

Charlene Jones has most recently published pieces on CommuterlitShe also writes for her radio program Off the Top with Whistle Radio, 102.7 fm (aired every second Tuesday from 3:00 to 3:30 p.m.) 

You can see Charlene perform her poetry and prose at Linda Stitt's inimitable monthly salon at Portobello Restaurant and Bar the first Saturday every month in Toronto. Charlene blogs at

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Ottawa, Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Bolton, Bolton, Caledon, Georgetown, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Guelph, London, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Midland, Orillia, Thessalon, Algoma, Kitchener-Waterloo, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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