Sometimes it takes a city’s own literary community to embrace an extraordinary novel national award juries have overlooked. Such is the case with Kingston writer Mark Sinnett’s novel The Carnivore, which was named the winner of the 2010 Toronto Book Award yesterday. The award recognizes “books of artistic merit that are evocative of Toronto,” and Sinnett’s moody exploration of 1954 Toronto in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel “brings the storm, the city, and the characters fully to life,” according to the judges. Mayor David Miller also weighed in on the book, which he described rather vaguely as providing “a unique perspective about our diverse city,” before singing its praises for beating out more than 70 other entries.
Sinnett is not a complete stranger to the awards circuit. He has written two other books: an award-winning collection of poetry, and a thriller that was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award. And though the $11,000 in prize money is relatively small compared to the Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Award or the Man Booker Prize, as a winner, Sinnett will find himself in good company. The list of previous victors reads like a who’s-who of Canadian literary greats, with Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Austin Clarke and Dionne Brand among those who have taken home the award in the past.