Trevor reviews Annabel, by Kathleen Winter

Copy courtesy House of Anansi

Trevor at the Mookse and the Gripes has posted a review of Kathleen Winter’s Annabel, completing his reading of the 2010 Giller Prize shortlist. That means that visitors here now have access to two sets of reviews of the five shortlist titles (see the links in the sidebar). Since the Real Jury will not be making their decision until Nov. 9, that gives the Shadow Jury lots of time for discussion — I will be posting our decision on this site on Friday, Nov. 5. In the meantime, here are Trevor’s opening paragraphs on Annabel — you can find my thoughts (and a guest post from author Winter) here.

Fifth and final stop on the 2010 Giller shortlist for me is Kathleen Winter’s Annabel (2010), an intriguing story I’ve been looking forward to reading since I saw KevinfromCanada’s review of it earlier this year. First, there is the cold wilderness setting of Labrador. I like dwelling in harsh weather conditions — in books, that is. But what interested me more was that this setting is used to emphasize themes in a book about an intersex child (intersex is, recently, the politically correct term for those historically called hermaphrodites, though ”intersex” too apparently has critics).

Annabel opens up with a mystical (or is it mythological) prologue. A blind hunter and his daughter Annabel are floating on a canoe for the hunting season. The hunter is asleep as the daughter drifts sleepily down the river. Then the daughter spies a white caribou on the shore. As she stands to reach out to the animal, Annabel upsets the boat. Neither she nor her father can swim, and they perish.

In the next scene, Thomasina (the wife and mother of the two who have just drowned) is helping Jacinta Blake give birth. As you may have guessed, when the child is born, neither Thomasina nor Jacinta knows whether it is a boy or a girl. It appears to be both. They will, they know, both love it, but Jacinta wonders, “Will other people love it?”

The baby’s father, Treadway, is a quiet hunter. For much of the year he is gone on his sled. Though Treadway is far from cruel, when he learns of the child’s sex, he ensures that what he feels is right is done. There is little discussion. They will, he determines, raise it as a boy — no one else will know the secret — so the baby is christened Wayne. Thomasina, who has just lost her Annabel, breathes the name Annabel at the christening.

All three Shadow jurors have had a worthwhile time with this year’s shortlist. Your comments on any of the books are certainly welcome — and by all means let us know if you have a choice.

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One Response to “Trevor reviews Annabel, by Kathleen Winter”

  1. amymckie Says:

    Ooohhh Annabel was probably one of my top 5 favorite books this year. I so hope that it wins!

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