Faith's Reviews > Annabel

Annabel by Kathleen Winter
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's review
Jun 07, 11

bookshelves: read-queer-fiction
Read in June, 2011

Always a bridesmaid---check out how many awards this debut novel was nominated for but didn't win! All 3 major literary awards in Canada, for starters. Kathleen Winter knows how to spin a story and her next book will be more highly decorated, I feel sure.

Perhaps the "problem" was that the title character, an intersex child (in this case a hermaphrodite), is almost not the point of this novel. Hir parents are equally compelling as characters, as is a family friend, Thomasina. And just as interesting is the setting: Labrador, an arduous climate where the sexes are strictly divided, with the men out trapping and fishing for months at a time and the women literally keeping the home fires burning. When's the last time you read a novel set there? We especially learn a lot about the father's way of life (which includes communicating with wild animals), and in fact those details set up an unusual late chapter that's most notable for what doesn't happen. I was going to call it a climax, but there's not really a climax in this book; plot is not its strongest suit.

I would have been happier if, considering all the author's research, Annabel had conveyed that male and female are no longer considered the only genders in the world. But this is an important book even so: intriguing, laugh-out-loud funny in places, and always thought-provoking.

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