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4.5 of 5
2 ratings
list price: $32.00
also available: Paperback
category: Fiction
published: Sep 2017
publisher: Doubleday Canada

Bellevue Square

by Michael Redhill

reviews: 2
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suspense, literary, psychological
4.5 of 5
2 ratings
list price: $32.00
also available: Paperback
category: Fiction
published: Sep 2017
publisher: Doubleday Canada

*Winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize*
A darkly comic literary thriller about a woman who fears for her sanity—and then her life—when she learns that her doppelganger has appeared in a local park.
Jean Mason has a doppelganger. She's never seen her, but others swear they have. Apparently, her identical twin hangs out in Kensington Market, where she sometimes buys churros and drags an empty shopping cart down the streets, like she's looking for something to put in it. Jean's a grown woman with a husband and two kids, as well as a thriving bookstore in downtown Toronto, and she doesn't rattle easily—not like she used to. But after two customers insist they've seen her double, Jean decides to investigate.

She begins at the crossroads of Kensington Market: a city park called Bellevue Square. Although she sees no one who looks like her, it only takes a few visits to the park for her to become obsessed with the possibility of encountering her twin in the flesh. With the aid of a small army of locals who hang around in the park, she expands her surveillance, making it known she'll pay for information or sightings. A peculiar collection of drug addicts, scam artists, philanthropists, philosophers and vagrants—the regulars of Bellevue Square—are eager to contribute to Jean's investigation. But when some of them start disappearing, she fears her alleged double has a sinister agenda. Unless Jean stops her, she and everyone she cares about will face a fate much stranger than death.

About the Author

Michael Redhill

MICHAEL REDHILL is a fiction writer, playwright and poet, and the co-editor and former publisher of the literary magazine Brick. His first novel, Martin Sloane, a finalist for the Giller Prize, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Books in Canada First Novel Award. His novel Consolation received the Toronto Book Award, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and was the winner of the Keep Toronto Reading “One Book” campaign. A father of two, Michael Redhill lives in Toronto. Saving Houdini is his first book for young readers.

Author profile page >
Contributor Notes

MICHAEL REDHILL is a Giller Prize-winning novelist, poet and playwright. He is the author of the novels Consolation, longlisted for Man Booker Prize; Martin Sloane, a finalist for the Giller Prize; and most recently, Bellevue Square, winner of the 2017 Giller Prize. He has written a novel for young adults, four collections of poetry and two plays, including the internationally celebrated Goodness. He also writes a series of crime novels under the name Inger Ash Wolfe. He lives in Toronto, Ontaio.

  • Long-listed, Toronto Book Award
  • Winner, Scotiabank Giller Prize
Editorial Review

Winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize
#1 National Bestseller
Longlisted for the 2018 Toronto Book Award
Globe and Mail Best Book of 2017
A National Post Best Book of 2017
A CBC Best Book of 2017
A Kobo Best Book of 2017
A NOW Magazine Best Book of 2017

"To borrow a line from Michael Redhill's beautiful Bellevue Square, 'I do subtlety in other areas of my life.' So let's look past the complex literary wonders of this book, the doppelgangers and bifurcated brains and alternate selves, the explorations of family, community, mental health and literary life. Let's stay straightforward and tell you that beyond the mysterious elements, this novel is warm, and funny, and smart. Let's celebrate that it is, simply, a pleasure to read."  —The 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize Jury 

"The opening chapters of this new opus, Bellevue Square, stick closely to the grip-lit script: simple, compelling prose, sudden plot twists, looming violence and a female narrator who swiftly proves unreliable. But as the reader becomes more and more absorbed in the story, the book quietly becomes something else. Something mystifying and haunting and entirely its own. . . . Reading Bellevue Square is as captivating as it is unsettling. . . . This modern ghost story . . . will not soon be forgotten." —Toronto Star
"Bellevue Square is something of a performance. . . . In its taut span of 262 pages, Bellevue Square features several narrative and tonal hairpin turns. With each of these, our admiration for Redhill's storytelling dexterity burgeons. . . . I'd rather be lost in Redhill's ghost story than grounded in your average slab of tasteful literary realism." The Globe and Mail
"Described often as a dark, comic thriller, Bellevue Square is packed full of themes keeping the reader a little off balance but always entertained." —Vancouver Sun
"Not since Paul Auster's City of Glass has there been a novel this engaging about doppelgangers and the psychological horror they wreak. . . . As chilling as that stranger you're pretty sure has been following you all afternoon." —The Title
"[A] moving and beautifully written memoir." —CBC Books
"There's a boldness to [Bellevue Square] and, at its best, a genuine thrill." —The Walrus
"Sit yourself down in Bellevue Square and watch as parallel worlds collide. Redhill has written a mind-blowing brainteaser of a novel with plot twists worthy of David Lynch. A brilliant tribute to those among us whose brains are wired differently." —Neil Smith, author of Boo
"By turns harrowing and mesmerizing." —Quill & Quire
"Even as we start doubting Jean we can’t stop loving her. Along the way, Redhill gives us a ton of twists and turns and makes Toronto one of the stars of the show." —NOW

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Reader Reviews

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Funny, unsettling, fragmented literary thriller

Fascinating exploration of character, identity and perspective with excellent character writing. Not in love with the lack of closure in the wrap-up, but it's very literary and in keeping with the fragmented structure and unreliable narrator. Features nuanced depictions of mental illness, quirky character studies, excellent Canadian world-building/description, and some borderline horror/suspense elements. Despite a lack of traditional story structure, the reading experience was engaging; I basically inhaled this book in (almost) one sitting. Is there such a thing as a literary thriller?

Deep, dark storytelling

Bellevue Square is not a story that is easy to forget. It is dark and compelling but also left me guessing to the very end, while hanging out to every beautiful sentence.

I also feel like it is a hard book to categorize. What is it? A thriller, a mystery, comedic, a Giller Prize (perhaps) winner? Michael Redhill wrote a book unlike many others and for that I give him big props. I think anyone who is so creative and creates such new ideas needs to be recognized for original though (hard to come by these days). It is an interesting book to read because I wanted desperately to know what was going to happen, but I also wanted to read slowly and savour every word of the beautiful and often difficult, writing. I don’t find most typical “page-turner thrillers” cause the same pause in their words. The writing is both very clever and thought provoking giving me understanding to how it ended up on the short list for the Giller Prize.

The story is about a woman, a normal woman, married with two boys, who owns a bookstore. Jean is told one day that she has a double, a doppelganger by one of her regular customers. This intrigues Jean and she starts hanging out at a local park, where apparently the twin hangs out, to try to spot her for herself. But the story doesn’t stay that simple. Will the real woman please stand up? We get taken along for a wild ride of mystery, brain tumors, alternative worlds, mental wards and the difference between truth and fiction. I am still not even sure if I understood everything myself and although I tend to not read things twice I feel like this one might be worth the effort.

I love the careful and thoughtful interactions between Jean and the regulars in the park. I am one of those people who feel it’s important to listen to everyone’s story, including those who live in parks, so this was refreshing.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Redhill mentions that Bellevue Square explores loss and “is about the surprising (and disturbing) plasticity of the self and what happens when the sense you’ve made of things stops making sense.” I think we can all relate to that. The self always keep going, even long after things have stopped making sense.

I don’t want to post any spoilers, but would recommend the read. And then call me up and we can discuss it, okay?

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