Annabel (Review)

February 3, 2011

Book cover for "Annabel" by Kathleen Winter.Title: Annabel

Author: Kathleen Winter

Publication Year: 2010

Pages: 480

Genre: Fiction, Canadiana

Source: Purchased from Chapters

From the cover:

Kathleen Winter’s luminous debut novel is a deeply affecting portrait of life in an enchanting seaside town and the trials of growing up unique in a restrictive environment.

In 1968, into the devastating, spare atmosphere of the remote coastal town of Labrador, Canada, a child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor fully girl, but both at once. Only three people are privy to the secret — the baby’s parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbor and midwife, Thomasina. Though Treadway makes the difficult decision to raise the child as a boy named Wayne, the women continue to quietly nurture the boy’s female side. And as Wayne grows into adulthood within the hyper-masculine hunting society of his father, his shadow-self, a girl he thinks of as “Annabel,” is never entirely extinguished.

I feel like I’m doing a lot of gushing lately, but I really, really loved this book.

Having said that, I didn’t always love the things that happened in Annabel, or the way that characters acted. I think that was a large part of the point, though – to show the realities of how a situation like this might play out in a culture like that in the Maritimes.

There were also parts of the book where I felt almost personally devastated by what was happening to Wayne/Annabel. It was hard to put myself in his specific shoes, but I could feel his isolation and frustration with the ways he was treated (particularly by his father).

At times while reading, I felt like the story was starting to drag. I think that, in part, it was just that the loneliness was really coming through the pages. I’m not sure this was all of it, but it was definitely a part of it. Even when I had to push through “slow” parts, though, I still found myself drawn deeply into Wayne’s world and wanting him to end up happy.

Though Annabel wasn’t perfect, I still felt like I learned an awful lot from the experience of reading it. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who asked.



  • Trisha February 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    I wish I had liked this one more. I’m thinking I may need to re-read it sometime just to see if the mood I was in had anything to do with it.

    • Carina February 4, 2011 at 11:05 am

      Perhaps. Also, it felt like it was a book that it would be hard to say “I loved it” about, but that has a profound impact on the reader. Not always in a good way, but such is life.

  • The Golden Eagle February 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    It sounds like a very interesting book! Thank you for the review–I hadn’t heard of it before.

  • Jeane February 3, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I’m curious about this book. Adding it to my list.

  • Ash February 3, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    I totally get what you mean about liking a book but it being kind of uncomfortable to read. It’s a weird experience, but that is how some of good books are.

    • Carina February 4, 2011 at 11:03 am

      Absolutely! I thought it was a good book, it just wasn’t always something that I “enjoyed” reading, if that makes sense.

  • Nana Fredua-Agyeman February 4, 2011 at 4:35 am

    Trapped, that’s how I refer to this novel.

    • Carina February 4, 2011 at 11:03 am

      I agree. There’s this sense of not really having any choices, for any of the characters.

  • iliana February 4, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Definitely putting this one on my list. Sounds like a good, emotional read!

  • BryOak March 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    I’ve not heard of this book yet but it sounds pretty intriguing and imteresting. Have you read The Wasp Factory by Iain banks. I love that book and Annabel sounds a little similar, but not as graphic as dark. There’s another one that srpings to mind too but can’t think of the author… Middlesex??

  • Amy March 25, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    So glad you liked this one 😀 I loved it as you may recall. heh.

  • Jules April 2, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while now, and I’m currently waiting for it on a wait list at the library. Been debating buying it, by the sounds of your review, I won’t be disappointed – even in the slower parts.

    • Carina May 24, 2011 at 10:40 am

      Indeed! It’s just not as fast as I would’ve liked, but that doesn’t make it a bad book. It’s just kind of … ponderous?

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