Toronto Book Awards – Featuring Étienne’s Alphabet

The 2011 Toronto Book Awards is being covered by our guest blogger Christine Sweeton. To read more about her, click here.

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James King’s fifth novel, Étienne’s Alphabet, was published last year by Cormorant Books, a publishing company dedicated to producing the best new work in adult literary fiction and creative non-fiction while showing the diversity of Canadian writers .

Étienne’s Alphabet is a fictional memoir written by the main character, Étienne Morneau, an orphan born in Montreal. After a move to Ontario in 1939, Étienne spends his life as a francophone working as a bank teller in a Toronto. For the most part, others find him stiff, reserved, and antisocial. After his death in 1967, a collection of secret drawings are discovered and provide proof of his artistic genius.  His memoir is arranged like a dictionary and reveals his interesting and often unique perspective of Toronto life in the mid-twentieth century.

“In lesser hands, this fictional memoir might well have diminished into gimmickry, but King brings Etienne’s story to life.”
The Globe and Mail

The novel has also been called “Wonderful.” in a review by Shelia Koffman, owner of Another Story Bookshop. Koffman’s review appeared in the November 6th, 2010 edition of my favourite magazine, Toronto Life, in their monthly “See, Hear, Read” culture picks which features three “red-hot releases.”

The judges at the Toronto Book Awards describe King’s novel as follows:

“Artist, orphan and creative genius, Étienne Morneau is a protagonist defined by lists and routine. In Étienne’s Alphabet, his story moves from Montreal to Toronto and takes the reader along with each magnificent detail in an astonishingly rich telling of a life set in mid 20th Century Canadian history. Étienne’s story is revealed through objects, mapped into chapters titled with letters of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z. Each chapter begins with a literary etching of a letter, which moves well beyond description and architecture to personifying, celebrating and at times, reviling. The book is a wonderfully unique narrative gem a testament to King’s gift for taking the seemingly mundane and bringing it to life with poetic detail.”

Stay tuned for my review of Étienne’s Alphabet by James King (Cormorant Books).

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