Book Review – Annabel – Kathleen Winter
- Book: Annabel
- Author: Kathleen Winter
- Genre: Fiction
- Year of Release: 2011
- Read 462-page paperback edition in March 2015.
On the remote landscape of Labrador, Canada, in 1968, a child is born to Treadway and Jacinta. However, the child is born with a secret: both male and female sex organs. The doctors and Treadway decide to raise the child male, and Treadway names his son Wayne. But Jacinta, and her close friend and neighbour Thomasina, feel a bond to the girl inside this male child. And as Wayne is raised, he too feels a strange pull inside, the pull of a girl named Annabel. As he is raised in a closed, isolated community, Wayne and his family and neighbours around him try to react and understand, when Annabel surfaces.
This debut novel from Kathleen Winter is absolutely stunning. Such a powerful novel, with powerful themes and complex, multi-faceted characters. Winter does a fantastic job portraying complex issues of intersexuality in the 1960s-1980s, and in a rural, desolate environment.
The characters in the novel are layered and textured with complexity. Wayne grows up, slowly learning more about the choices his parents made, and having to learn, sometimes in a very lonely way, the various pieces that make him Wayne – and Annabel. Wayne’s parents, Treadway and Jacinta, are themselves complex characters, and very divergent people. Winter does a fantastic job showing how they relate to each other, bringing up themes of loneliness and marriage in the process. Friend and neighbour Thomasina is also a complex and unique personality that appears throughout the novel, allowing Winter to illustrate how quirky people don’t always feel at home in traditional communities. In bringing these different characters together, and showing how they deal with stress, and how they love, Winter is able to bring to light so many wonderful themes and ideas, not only the main theme of intersexuality.
Furthermore, the plot itself is a fascinating one, with Winter able to bring to light successes, happiness, and fears of both children and adults. Winter is able to write about the desolate setting of Labrador, as well as the city charm of St. John’s, Newfoundland. In addition, the frightening and even disturbing scenes that occur in the novel are well written and vivid.
There are a lack of novels, even today, where the central character is an intersex individual or a transgender individual. Winter does a fantastic job writing a powerful and emotional novel that helps fill this void.
Overall: 5 stars out of 5 stars.