A Good House by Bonnie Burnard

A $1 find from the library’s ongoing used book sale, I was sold when I saw this was the 1999 Giller Prize winner. I’ve been reading the Giller shortlist since 2007, and maybe eventually I can say that I’ve read every Giller winner.

This won the Giller Prize because it was different. Its entirely narrative style avoids sentimentality and never exceeds a calm flow as it describes the tragedies of being human. The same distance that gives this book its literary strength is also its greatest weakness: we are kept so far back from the characters that I want to shout out “Why?” across the gulf that separates us.



Bill Chambers has come home from the Second World War with several fingers of his right hand missing but with the will to restore his family life intact. He wants the best for his wife, Sylvia, and his children Patrick, Paul and Daphne, and with his steady job at the hardware store the future stretches out before him. Yet as that future takes hold and the family members spread out into the larger world, generations pull apart and come together again, bonds deepen and widen, loyalties are tested by time and chance, and love creates its own snares.