A little-known novel set against the end of apartheid in South Africa has been named Manitoba's book of the year.
Winnipeg writer Meira Cook, best known for her poetry, won the $5,000 McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award for The House on Sugarbush Road at the Manitoba Book Awards ceremony Sunday, April 28.
Cook beat out her more prominent competitor, David Bergen, whose novel The Age of Hope walked off with two prizes, the $5,000 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award and the $3,500 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction from the province.
Thirteen awards in total were handed out at the 25th annual event, held this year at the West End Cultural Centre.
Cook's novel was released in 2012 by Enfield & Wizenty, the literary imprint of Winnipeg-based Great Plains Publications.
Set in Johannesburg during the 1990s, The House on Sugarbush Road focuses on two families, one white and the other black, just after Nelson Mandela has been elected president of racially torn South Africa.
Cook herself immigrated to Canada from South Africa in 1991 at age 26.
The Age of Hope relates the life story of a fictional southern Manitoba Mennonite woman. It was published last year by Toronto-based HarperCollins Canada.
The Winnipeg-based Bergen has won several Manitoba book awards for his past novels. In 2005, he won the national Giller Prize for The Time in Between.
Four other titles were also nominated for Manitoba's book of the year: two novels, Dating by David Williamson and Whitetail Shooting Gallery by Annette Lapointe; the L.B. Foote photography book Imagining History by Esyllt Jones; and the poetry collection Monstrance by Sarah Klassen.
Here are the other winners at Sunday night's event, co-sponsored by the Manitoba Writers' Guild and Association of Manitoba Book Publishers:
- Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction: Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art, by Darlene Coward Wight (Douglas and MacIntyre/ Winnipeg Art Gallery).
- Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher: Thunder Road by Chadwick Ginther, cover design by Jamis Paulson, interior design by Sharon Caseburg (Ravenstone/Turnstone).
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Dennis Cooley
- McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award, older category: The Green-Eyed Queen of Suicide City by Kevin Marc Fournier (Great Plains).
- John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer: Kristian Enright.
- Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry: The Politics of Knives, by Jonathan Ball (Coach House Books).
- Best Illustrated Book of the Year: Imagining Winnipeg: History through the Photographs of L.B. Foote, by Esyllt Jones, design by Doowah Design (University of Manitoba Press).
- Manuela Dias Book Design of the Year: Warehouse Journal Vol. 21, edited and designed by Nicole Hunt and Brandon Bergem (U of M Faculty of Architecture).
- Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book: Sonar, by Kristian Enright (Turnstone Press).
- Prix Littéraire rue-Deschambault: La Révolution Tranquille, by Raymond Hebert (Les Éditions du Blé).