jo's Reviews > Annabel

Annabel by Kathleen Winter
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Feb 26, 2013

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bookshelves: canadian, queer, mama-is-crazy
Read from July 22 to 29, 2012

*** SPOILERS, OF WHICH I HIDE ONLY THE MAJOR ONE ***

this book has great promise, mostly in the beautiful language, but i felt it (the book, not the promise), from halfway through to the end, get lost in the writer's fantastic meanderings. this is what i mean: it feels as if kathleen winter, the author, made a conscious decision not to follow narrative conventions of closure and preferred to follow her soul. her soul dictated to her a free form in which threads are left dangling and non-existent threads are picked up as if they had been there all along.

this didn't work for me. i wanted to know what happened to wayne's mother and why wayne's father turned into such a stellar parent. i want to know why thomasina never goes where she is invited and refuses so consistently to stay in the lives she so profoundly affects. she is such a lovely character. why keep her abroad and distant, only to be heard of from postcards?

winter makes of this book the story of the relationship between a son/daughter and his/her father, but we get this only as the story matures and grows towards its (non)conclusion. it is strange, in a book by a woman author, to see women so badly done by. some of them, like wayne's mother, simply wane and disappear; some of them are exiled from the narrative; and wayne is more comfortable confiding in an unreliable and barely-known 15-year-old than in his obviously caring ex-principal.

there are other missed boats, unblossomed buds. mostly, as i said, there seems to be a determination on the part of the author to write differently. this is fine, but you must be able to pull it through. you can't leave your reader dangling, and dangling.

some of the light-handed magical realism is reminiscent of louise erdrich, which is a great accomplishment indeed. some of the writing is breathtaking.

i can't bring myself to say anything about wayne's hermaphroditism. i haven't read enough literature by intersex people (jeffrey eugenides, author of middlesex is not intersex and i have no idea about kathleen winter), or even about intersex people, to know whether this feels true to them. i find that winter captures something here and there, but ultimately fails to bring home to us the exhilaration, the loss, the potential, the richness, the difference, the specialness of the intersex person. in her closure-phobia, she sort of drops the ball at the end. does it really all come down to the fact (view spoiler).

what is wally doing in this story?

i wish this were a draft, and that i could now read the finished book.
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Reading Progress

07/22/2012 "canadian! set in labrador! brrrr" 1 comment
07/29/2012 "i stayed up late last night to finish this. i fell asleep 10 pages to the end."
07/17/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca Your review sort of reminds me of what you are writing about what the author is writing. If that makes sense :D.


message 2: by jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

jo are you telling me that i meander and don't bring anything to closure?


message 3: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca erm..um...well, while I was reading through the review I wondered what you were having for breakfast but then I remembered it was dinner where you are so that made me think of differences in time zone and what that might mean for communication aided and abetted by technology which brings people like you and I into contact where we can learn about each other and our likes/dislikes where books are concerned and what sort of writing appeals to us and....something like that?


message 4: by jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

jo you write in german. are you german? i had raw veggies for dinner, and now i'm having a cappuccino. i am italian. i live in miami. i feel chronically displaced. this sort of writing appeals to me. hmm. did i mention everything?


message 5: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca bellissima, carina! non potevo scrivere piu meglio. ma...italiana? e bevi un cappuccino dopo hai cenato? sembra sia displaced...si.


message 6: by jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

jo è decaffeinato.


message 7: by Scribble (last edited Jul 29, 2012 07:40PM) (new)

Scribble Orca orribile! peggio che avevo immaginato. dio mio.


message 8: by Emilie (new)

Emilie i think you are generous to say that she is following her soul. i agree that she does not portray women well. i think her message ends up (view spoiler)


message 9: by jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

jo emilie, this is an astute observation. i'd like to know where she is speaking from. what her life experiences are. all of that. (view spoiler).


message 10: by Emilie (new)

Emilie yes, it's really sad. and thomasina's exile is sad, too. i liked her character a lot and it felt to me like she was struggling against an invisible force (the writer) who wouldn't let her get close enough after she'd shown what she could do. in a certain bittersweet way, it's funny that she's only permitted to send postcards. like even a letter would be a threat.


message 11: by jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

jo she sure can pack a lot of writing in those postcards, too!


Lynda I too feel that it fell apart at the end. I don't need a book to be tied with a bow, but this one, as much as I loved it until two-thirds through, just left me dangling and unsatisfied. Excellent writer though. I like your comment about it being a draft. Yes.


message 13: by jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

jo thank you lynda.


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