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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books of 2010
First off, I have to say that this was definitely one of the best books I've read this year. Interesting, beautifully written, unique. Winter writes with elegant simplicity. As the blurb on the cover by author Michael Crummey says, "It's a beautiful book, brimming with heart and uncommon wisdom," and that sums it up perfectly.

Annabel is the story of a baby...
Published on Nov. 4 2010 by J. Nickel

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow...but it grows on you!
Slow to start...but the book grows on you....so stay with it. A great Eastern Canada read, so I recommend it!
Published on Dec 21 2012 by Veronica Hylands


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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books of 2010, Nov. 4 2010
By 
J. Nickel (Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Annabel (Hardcover)
First off, I have to say that this was definitely one of the best books I've read this year. Interesting, beautifully written, unique. Winter writes with elegant simplicity. As the blurb on the cover by author Michael Crummey says, "It's a beautiful book, brimming with heart and uncommon wisdom," and that sums it up perfectly.

Annabel is the story of a baby born in 1968 in a remote village in Labrador---itself a remote region of Canada--with both male and female genitalia . A decision was made somewhat reluctantly by his mother and her best friend/midwife-- to raise the baby as male, and so his vagina was stitched shut, he was given life-long meds, and the female side of little Wayne was hidden inside himself. By the time Wayne reaches puberty though, it is clear to him that he is not like any other child, and the truth is revealed to him in bits and pieces. More than just a story of what it's like to live an intersex life, this is a story of silences and secrets, and all about identity and how we all perform our genders. Winter approaches this all with great dignity and sensitivity. If I have quibble about this book, it's just that Wayne's poor mother disappears from the book about 2/3rds of the way through. What happened to her?

I received this book back in July, but between the frosty blue cover with the deer on it and the author's name "Winter," the book just seemed too cold to read in the height of summer. Having read it now I wonder why I took so long--this is a great read any time of the year.

One more small thing: Gabriel Fauré's "Cantique de Jean Racine" is important to a three of the characters in a few spots. When it came up right near the end I was curious and so pulled it up on YouTube. Of course I recognized it right away. It's a stunning piece of music, and listening to it as I read the final pages was an enriching experience that brought tears to my eyes.

Annabel was nominated for the literary triple crown in Canada: the Roger's Writers' Trust Fiction Prize (which was recently awarded to Emma Donoghue for Room), the Governor General's Literary Award, and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tackling a Difficult Subject with Grace!, July 23 2010
By 
Kathryn L. MacIntosh (Kitchener,Ontario) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Annabel (Hardcover)
Winters has written a hauntingly beautiful novel. It is beautiful in its craftsmanship. It is beautiful in its natural,rugged Labrador coastal setting of the 1960's. It is beautiful in its simplicity of characters and story. What is not so beautiful is it topic...hermaphroditism. And yet, Winters shows us that this abberation of nature is not necessarily ugly and sordid. It is not one which must be immediately surgerically corrected upon birth. Indeed her message resonates in the midwife's words "That baby is all right the way it is. There's enough room in this world." And so Wayne grows up, ostensibly,a male,receiving testosterone shots from the island hospital, while simultaneously possessing female organs and emotions. The truth is kept a huge secret.

The main characters...Wayne, himself;the midwife,Thomasina; Jacinta,the mother; and Treadwell,the father, are the only ones who know why Wayne sometimes prefers "less manly" activities. Tension builds as Jacinta understands and sympathizes with Wayne's proclivities, while Treadwell openly castigates them. Many times in the novel, the reader sympathize with Wayne's frustrations. It is only when he has left home and finally met up with Wally, a primary school friend with whom he had always felt comfortable, that he can truly relax. The setting has changed to a college in Boston, where Wally is studying music. Sitting among the other students there, Wayne suddenly realized that he finally "fit in". Finally,"he did not feel out of place because of his body's ambiguity".

While the story has been one of great angst,and while Winters may not have convinced the reader that it is best to leave nature alone, the reader at least awakens to the deep humanity of hermaphroditism. And, regardless of the amount of surgical intervention, all people are comprised of both male and female characteristics, and all combinations need to be accepted.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who Are We When Our Identity is Decided by Others?, March 16 2011
By 
Cheryl Schenk (Alberta, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Annabel (Hardcover)
The Globe and Mail calls it "Beautiful...Absolutely riveting from the very first page." and that is a fact. Kathleen Winter is a very capable storyteller and I look forward to future works.

I love when the cover of a book intrigues me. The blurred vision of an animal confused me at first, but became a profound imagery in several ways throughout the introduction to Labrador and its inhabitants.

In this story the author weaves a tale about people and community and the challenges of youth, all of which has been complicated further by the hidden truth of a child's identity, dictated to by gender and society beliefs.

I felt tremendous sympathy for Wayne throughout, and was often angered or bewildered by the actions of the adults in his life. However, I was also touched by the depth of love and respect amongst these individuals, and moved by the sense of innocence and trust that remained at the core of Wayne's character from childhood into his adult life. As a parent, I also understand that we are often called upon to make decisions in our children's lives and that community, family traditions and upbringing play such a strong role for all of us in who we become as adults and how we make those decisions.

From the time I first heard about his story through the Giller prize shortlist, I was compelled to read it. At a young age, I remember my mother and aunts talking about a distant cousin that was born a hermaphrodite, though that word never entered the conversation. They spoke about the fact that his parents chose to raise him as a son, and that through the years that decision became a struggle for him.

I never understood, or even contemplated, what kind of struggle he would have had or the depth of physical and mental pain he may have been subjected to.

Thank you, Ms. Winter, for opening my eyes and touching my heart through Annabel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an excellent book., Feb. 16 2011
By 
This review is from: Annabel (Hardcover)
The author tells a poignant story without leading the reader to judge anyone's behavior or decisions.

The "scene" is wonderfully set: 1968 rural Labrador (nearly-Northern Canada, very isolated and "rustic" living environment) where a true hermaphrodite child is born. Even today this would be a challenging and difficult moment for parents, now imagine 40 years ago in a rural hunting/fishing community.

There is no sense of judgment as to whether or not the parents made the "right" choice, or handled it the right way - they made the choice they did, knowing what they know. I can't imagine what any parent would do if they had to decide just after birth, what gender they should choose for their child.

And how would they feel about themselves if they chose wrong? When do you tell your child? At what age will he/she be old enough to understand, or to forgive your decision on their gender?

Some terrific questions explored via Wayne/Annabel as he/she grows up.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating subject, Nov. 7 2010
By 
Ketsia Lessard (Montréal, Québec, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Annabel (Hardcover)
We rarely get to read novels about hermaphrodites and it was a courageous enterprise for Winter to discuss such an unusual subject, and one that must have required extensive research. "Annabel" challenges our ideas of what is normal; it encourages us to accept what is, underlining the pain and shame we create when we try to make people fit into stiff categories when they simply can't. Winter makes it easy for the reader to feel compassion for the young hermaphrodite, Wayne/Annabel, and we witness his/her evolution with great eagerness. The book is at times filled, however, with unnecessary details, detours and poetic envolées that distract the reader from the main story line and make it hard to follow. But we put the novel down satisfied, with smarter and wiser perspectives on life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking, well written, Jan. 15 2012
This review is from: Annabel (Hardcover)
This book was well written. Very thought provoking. The writer brought out the emotions of the characters well. I could relate to these emotions. Ethics to think about. I recommend this book. Be aware if you cry easily this book will make you cry
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A FASCINATING AND ORIGINAL STORY!, June 29 2014
By 
Janet B (Montreal, Quebec, CANADA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Annabel (Paperback)
It was March of 1968 in Labrador, when a child was born to Jacinta and Treadway Blake. Their child was born at home and it was their trusted friend, Thomasina, who delivered the baby. Treadway was not in the room. Thomasina noticed that the baby had a penis and a clitoris. This meant that the baby was neither a boy or girl, but both at once. The name for this abnormality is Hermaphrodite. Jacinta kept this a secret from her husband. Thomasina suggested that Jacinta wait a little longer to see what developed.

Treadway was a woodsman and trapper, part Inuit and Scottish. He spent a lot of time away from home. In the evenings after work, he liked to read, meditate and study. It was Jacinta who was responsible for most of the baby's upbringing. A few days after the baby was born, Treadway sensed that something was very wrong with the baby and that Jacinta was keeping a secret from him. He spoke to Jacinta and told her he knew what the secret was. She thought it would be better to leave things alone and let nature take its course. Treadway did not agree with that idea. He said the baby would be raised a boy and his name would be Wayne after his grandfather. Jacinta said she would like the baby to be seen by a doctor. So off she went with the baby to the nearest hospital by helicopter to be seen by Dr. Ho. When Dr. Ho examined the baby, he came to the conclusion that because the penis was long enough, he would be called a male. Dr. Ho prescribed medications that had to be taken for a lifetime. This was to shut off the development of Wayne's female self and encourage the development as a male. Upon Jacinta's return with the baby, she spoke to Treadway about her visit. A christening for Wayne followed at St. Mark's Anglican Church in Croydon Harbour.

Thomasina was a school teacher, married to Graham Montague. She had a curvature of the spine and did not think anyone would want to marry her, but Graham was in love with her and did. Together they had a daughter whom they named Annabel, a pretty red-haired girl. When Graham wanted to take a boat ride, it was always Annabel who guided him to the boat, because he was blind. One day, while both of them were in the boat, an animal caught Annabel's eye and she got excited and stood up to see more and the boat capsized. Both Annabel and her father drowned. Thomasina was devastated. Her losses were unbearable, but she knew the living must go on living. She decided to sell her home and travel. When she would visit Wayne, she would call him Annabel after her late daughter. When Wayne grew older, Thomasina told him the secret. On her travels she would send him postcards of different bridges especially Ponte Vecchio in Florence, where there were buildings on the bridge and shops full of gold. There were people living in the buildings right on the bridge and the lights from their windows reflected on the water. The idea that people could live on a bridge fascinated Wayne.

When Wayne was in school, his best friend was a girl named Wally Michelin. She and her parents moved into the home that Thomasina sold. Wayne was in love with her the moment he saw her. When Wayne told her about the postcards he received from Thomasina and the bridges, they decided to build a little house for themselves on a bridge. Even Treadway helped them, but when he saw that they were spending too much time together, he destroyed what they had built and decided to end their relationship. In its place, when he saw that Wayne was very sad, he gave him a puppy. Wayne didn't want the puppy and so his father gave the puppy away.

As Wayne grew older, he was invited to his school prom by Gracie. Gracie became his friend, but he never forgot Wallie. His body was changing and one day, an unbelievable problem arose. How did he deal with it?

After a time, Wayne decided to leave home and moved to St. John's, Newfoundland, where his mother was originally from. Did he do the right thing by moving? What happened to his family and friends after he left? Was he/she able to cope with life as an Hermaphrodite?

Annabel is a debut novel for Kathleen Winter. It is written with such grace and sensitivity. The writing on this deep subject is extraordinary. This book has been critically acclaimed and an International Bestseller several times over.
A Must-Read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Gem, May 15 2014
This review is from: Annabel (Paperback)
Annabel
Good novels ought to touch us in some way. Annabel does just that and very well.
First, the author Kathleen Winter touched me with her strong sense of place. The place is Labrador (and at times St. John’s, Newfoundland).
They didn’t call this place the big land for nothing. It was big in a way that people who came in either respected and followed or disdained at their peril. You could live like a king in Labrador if you knew how to be subservient to the land, and if you did not know how, you would die like a fool, and many had done.
Place is tightly connected to plot and character. Winter’s has the talent to make you feel the texture and bareness and cold of Labrador and how Treadway (the main character’s father) is so linked to Nature.
Treadway had read Pascal, and the Bible, and the essays of philosophers, and he had read poets, and against his own will the hawk reminded him of things he had read. It did not speak to him out of its own wildness, perhaps he thought, because it had spent too much time circling above steeples and libraries and museums that held the thoughts of civilized men.
Second, Winter touched me through the beauty of her poetic prose. Reading Annabel is like savoring a very fine wine, listening to a touching piece of music or smelling a magnificent bouquet of lilacs. In spite of its serious subject and the many conflicts in the novel, beauty is everywhere. The novel is literary art at its finest.
“…that’s what a dance was, he saw. It was to get the two of you in your own world. You make the world anything you wanted. You could make it as far from here as possible, yet to the rest of the room you would look as if you were still here. They would have no idea where the two of you had gone.”
Third, I was touched by the story. The plot revolves around a couple’s conflicts over their son, Wayne, who was born with both female and male sexual organs. His mother wants him to be as much girl as boy, while his father totally rejects his son’s femaleness. As Wayne becomes older and more aware of his situation, conflicting emotions arise in him.
“He wished at that moment that his whole life had not been a secret, that lots of people were like him, instead of his being alone in a world where everyone was secure in their place as either woman or man.”
As a writer, I am always “studying” a novel, asking myself why I care or don’t care about a character. I cared about every character in Annabel but in particular, Wayne. Kathleen Winter has painted an unforgettable, tender coming of age story of a boy struggling to fit into a world that rejects him.
I still haven’t figured how Winter made me care so much for her characters but one thing I know is that if I need inspiration for my writing I just have to pick up her novel, read a few random pages and I am instantly inspired.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars coming of age with a twist, April 13 2011
This review is from: Annabel (Hardcover)
There are a couple of things I love about reading well written literature by Canadian authors that I sometimes miss in the writings of other nationalities: the connection to things that are real in my life, like Maple Leaf bologna; and the (really hard to find the right word here) Canadian-ness of the characters. If you've spent any time in Newfoundland and Labrador, I'm sure you would find an even deeper connection to this book than I did. The setting, the landscape, community and characters were familiar to me from the first page. I love that! I also really enjoyed watching the growth and transformation of the characters over the course of the novel.

Wayne/Annabel was born in Labrador in 1968. He was born at home and he was born both male and female. Because I found the book so interesting, I did what I tend to do, and googled some 'facts'. It is up for debate whether there is such a thing as a true hermaphroditic human and still more unlikely that an 'intersex' body (using politically correct terminology) could or would behave in the some of the ways Wayne/Annabel's body did in the book. I would be very interested to hear from an intersex person who has read the book. I wonder how well Kathleen Winter captured the experience of being an intersex person.

This story had the potential to become too bizarre for the reader to believe. It had the potential to become bogged down in a physiology and psychology too foreign for the reader to bear. It didn't do either of these things. Although I, occasionally, felt Ms Winter walked a fine line, she managed to keep the novel real. A story about a family and community faced with all of the normal difficulties one would expect in a small, isolated place and, one family, trying to keep a secret in a place where secrets are notoriously difficult to keep. Each if the main characters in this book struggles to be true to who they really are and, as we would expect, some succeed better than others.

My favorite quote in the entire 461 pages (OK, maybe my favorite quote of all time):
'Vengence is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.
"When?" asked Treadway. "When is the Lord planning on getting around to it? Because I can have it done by this time tomorrow."'
pg 446

If I were to describe this book in just a couple of words, (and, of course I am about to do just that) I would say engaging and worthwhile.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Annabel, June 3 2014
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This review is from: Annabel (Paperback)
Annabel was a beautiful book. The characters in the book were expressed fully in a way that I became involved with then, and to feel sensitive and compassionate to their struggles. The attention to description of the land, animals and way of life was told with wonder. I did not want this book to end, and I could not put it down. Thanks to the author. I look forward to her next book
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Annabel
Annabel by Kathleen Winter (Paperback - Feb. 26 2011)
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