Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Annabel” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.83  ·  Rating details ·  10,419 ratings  ·  1,376 reviews
Award-winning Canadian author Kathleen Winter’s Annabel is a stunning debut novel about the family of a mixed-gendered child born into a rural hunting community in the 1960s.

Kathleen Winter’s luminous debut novel is a deeply affecting portrait of life in an enchanting seaside town and the trials of growing up unique in a restrictive environment.

In 1968, into the devastati
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published May 31st 2010 by House of Anansi Press
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Annabel, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Leigh Williams Perhaps the significance of the orange is in its temptation. Surely something so bright, fresh, and unusual on the landscape of Labrador would be…morePerhaps the significance of the orange is in its temptation. Surely something so bright, fresh, and unusual on the landscape of Labrador would be enough to tempt the hawk. But it didn't take the bait. It was a true test.(less)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,419 ratings  ·  1,376 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is lovely, but it is a mostly subdued novel about an intersexed child raised as a boy, whose fully operational vagina is sewn up at birth and kept a secret from him until a little health issue brings it to light. this is not a broad, epic tale like Middlesex. it is a subtle, lonely story that takes place in a remote part of canada where men provide for their families by trapping game, and women sew and raise both their vegetables and their children quietly.

wayne is raised as a boy, be
Raeleen Lemay
This novel was very quaint. It takes place in a rural Canadian town, and while I enjoyed the vibe and setting, the plot and characters fell a bit flat for me. I'm glad I finally read this, but I wasn't blown away by any means.
Cross-posted at Shelf Inflicted and at Outlaw Reviews

There are not many novels that explore the lives of intersex characters in fiction, so I was thrilled to pick this up at the library.

Kathleen Winter is a gifted writer. Her beautiful words, vivid images and intimate details of family life totally absorbed and unsettled me.

What I was hoping to get out of this novel was insight into the life of Wayne, an intersex child born in Labrador. (I refuse to use the ugly word “hermaphrodite”). His fat
Jul 22, 2012 rated it liked it

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
This is a wonderful exploration of the meanings of gender through the life of an intersex child born to a family in a remote village in Labrador in the sixties. Many people are born with handicaps or unusual physical traits, but arriving with both a penis and a vagina and mixed glands to boot is quite a challenge to set for a character and for a reader to comprehend. As much as we have advanced on acceptance of different sexual orientations or choice of gender roles, ambiguity in physical sex in ...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Dec 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Beth Knight
Written with compassion this extremely well received debut novel tells the story of raising a hermaphrodite child in a remote Labrador Village. At its core is the father’s misguided decision to give the child a normal life by dictating he is male, a choice that requires burying his female side with a combination of surgery & hormone treatment. A decision that sets the stage for a lifetime of secrecy, a collusion of dishonesty that threatens to tear the family apart.

The tone of the novel is
B the BookAddict
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Well worth reading
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: All About Books group member
Shelves: literary-fiction

This sensitive and powerful novel reads like one from a seasoned author, not at all like a debut novel.

In a small town in Newfoundland when a baby is born with both male and female physical identities, surgery is performed and a secret is forged between new parents, Treadway and Jacinta, and Jacinta’s friend Thomasina. It’s a secret kept from everyone including the child itself. The baby is brought up as a male, Wayne; Treadway is determined to instil masculine skills in Wayne while Thomasina ca
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
The book was the best novel I have ever read. I normally don't like fiction but this is the first novel that ever made me cry while I was reading. It resonated with me on so many aspects:

•I have been struggling with my sexuality for a very long time. Except for one major difference, which is that Wayne is a hermaphrodite and I am a physically "normal" male, I was astonished at the number of similarities between Wayne and me:
••I have always felt like a female soul out of sync with my body. Ever s
Shannon Wyss
I finished "Annabel" just a couple days ago. And i have to say that i'm incredibly ambivalent.

On the one hand, i was completely engrossed, especially as Wayne was hitting puberty and starting to discover that, yeah, things were quite as should be expected with his body. I found the book beautifully written, with well-drawn characters and a great physical setting.

On the other hand, i really wonder about Winters' use of a main character who's intersexed. It's clear she comes from a feminist backgr
Jan 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: intersex, novels
This review is my longest and hardest written yet. If you want a less wordy review, that I agree with almost entirely, check out this one at Quill and Quire.

However, if you press on, I will reward you with a free smiley at the end!

I wouldn't call what you have a disorder. I'd call it a different order. A different order means a whole new way of being. It could be fantastic. It could be overwhelmingly beautiful, if people weren't scared. -from Annabel by Kathleen Winter

I did not read this book a
Friederike Knabe
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-lit
The lone white caribou that appears as a vision to the blind hunter is just one of several allegorical animals that appear or are called upon at different decisive moments in the story. White caribou don't move that far south... "Why does anybody break away from the herd?" This allegorical image gives the reader a sense how much Kathleen Winter places nature and landscapes into a prominent position in her debut novel, ANNABEL: she conveys its mystique in a perceptive, almost poetic language, and ...more
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Annabel is one of the most amazing books I've read in a long time. I have to say I was a bit skeptical when I picked it up, as it is a story of an intersexed child born into a family in rural Labrador. I was afraid to find a one-dimensional story with lots of overt politics. Instead, I found a complex story told in beautiful language that brought the land to life, as much as the lives of the people who find themselves in an extraordinary situation, totally foreign to this rural community.

The par
As can be expected, "Annabel" is being compared to Eugenide's Pulitzer-Winning "Middlesex", which I have shelved on my all time favorites. In my opinion, although these two novels are medically about the same thing, an intersex youth adapting to life, the similarities do not continue much further. Unlike Eugenides, Winter has approached this tender theme with much more of an individual, micro rather than macro focus. Even the setting is subdued, a middle of the wilderness town in the depths of C ...more
Nov 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
I expect that everyone reading Annabel will take away something different. Teachers will reflect on their approach; parents will question their actions; health care professionals will question their practice; everyone will question their notions of black and white.

For me, reading the novel was an extremely uncomfortable and unsettling process that uncovered wounds I had long since buried or forgotten that I thought I had recovered from. So many of Wayne/Annabel's experiences were also my experie
Jennifer (aka EM)
Wow, Canada Reads - thank you. A beautiful, poetic book tying loneliness to landscapes and journeys internal and external. Gorgeous GORGEOUS writing. This book opens up your heart and though it is often sad, it leaves you with hope and filled with wonder at people's goodness and the strength of their compassion and connections with one another.
Jul 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gender-identity
So I gave this book three stars, but I have to say I found it to be pretty disappointing.

(view spoiler)
This book was so beautiful that I had to stop over and over again to pause and breathe. It was AMAZING.

Remember when you read Middlesex and you thought, "Gosh, Middlesex was really good, except that it had all these things going on, and Cal seemed kind of distant sometimes" and you wished that there was something just a little better?

Annabel is that book.

It's lush and lyrical, and the protagonist, Wayne-who-is-also-sometimes-Annabel is gorgeously painted. What Winters has done in bringing us thi
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Written by Kathleen Winter
2010; House of Anansi Press (464 Pages)
Genre: Canadian, fiction, literary, historical fiction, sexuality, transgender


A beautifully haunting novel written with such grace and compassion that I could not put it down till I finished. I first heard about this novel on BBC radio where they had adapted it to radio. I was blown away by it! It was an abridged version of the book so I knew as soon as it ended I had to fin this novel. While it was publish
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-bingo
A truly beautiful, honest, touching story. I loved everything about it. Winter did a tender job of dealing with a tender topic, and I appreciated her every word.
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A touching story of a family's journey in coming to terms with a tough physical issue. The writing in this reminded me at times of Louise Erdrich which made it even better. I have read Middlesex which was also really good but I think this one may be more accessible and possibly a more heartfelt experience. It gives us a thoughtful view into the difficulties around this relatively rare condition and hopefully some compassion towards those who experience this issue.
Samidha Kalia
As is visible, I took a lot of time to finish this. Mostly because the writing is very atmospheric, and detailed to the point that it reminded me a lot of Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver. It is immersed in the setting of Labrador, and Newfoundland. The beauty and the community, in contrast with finding one’s identity. How does a place limit and expand your sense of self, what does belonging really entail? All of these wonderful, thoughtful questions were present throughout the entire book.

Jul 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: intersex
Like Wayne himself, Kathleen Winter’s novel is beautiful, but difficult. It’s remarkably well crafted, full of lovely prose and haunting images. From a pure language standpoint, it’s a delightful read, and one that reminds you what an author can do when she takes the time to choose every word carefully.

Annabel is full of beautiful (but harsh) scenery, and beautiful (but equally harsh) characters. That, I’m afraid, is where my dissatisfaction with the book originates. The story is very cold, almo
Jennifer Lane
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Tremendously sad and well written, Annabel is a story about a hermaphrodite raised as the boy Wayne in remote eastern Canada. The characters had such depth, particularly Wayne and his father Treadway. Actually I found many of the characters fascinating--the family friend Thomasina as well as Wayne's friend Wally. But I dearly loved Wayne/Annabel, and had to choke back tears several times reading about his lonely plight.

There were two instances my jaw dropped reading this story. One was an act of
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to rate this. I keep fluctuating between 3 and 4 stars but I think I’m going to have to stick with 3. It could be that I just didn’t take the proper time to read this closely enough, but it didn’t have as much of an impact on me as I had hoped.

This book was beautifully written. The way Kathleen Winter works with words creates such a stunning atmosphere that just sucks you right in. The story itself was soft and subtle in it’s approach to the subject of Wayne’s he
Helene Jeppesen
3.5/5 stars.
Even though this was a beautiful book about a very interesting topic of hermaphrodism, I had some problems with its pacing. I loved the beginning where the setting of rural Canada is described beautifully and I loved the characters - even Wayne's father! Normally, I like slow-paced books but something about it in this book didn't work for me. It gradually became more and more tiresome to read, but that feeling was mingled with some amazing scenes and beautiful descriptions that I ha
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Quietly beautiful and hypnotically written. I am astonished to find that this is a first novel. One scene in particular (which, oddly enough, involved a hawk and an orange) will stay with me a long time.

Interestingly, I found the central conceit (the main character's hermaphroditism) almost a distraction. It may be the "hook" for many readers, but the book doesn't need it, and occasionally it rang just slightly false or desperate. Winter's eye for character, her gorgeous depiction of her setting
Amanda Leduc
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've read a lot of books in my short little life. I've read a lot of books (though I will echo my friend Steph, here, in saying that I too don't think I'll ever consider myself to be very well read), and I've enjoyed a lot of books, and I've even been bowled over by one or two texts that have danced across my way. The first book that ever did this for me was The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy. The next book that came close, for reasons that were variously different but ultimately led to t ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
In 1968 a small community in Labrador, on the eastern coast of Canada, a baby is born to Jacinta and Treadway Blake. Their close friend and neighbour, Thomasina, catches the baby and sees instantly that there is something unusual about it: the baby has a penis and one testicle, and beneath that, fully formed labia and a vagina. The baby is a fully-formed hermaphrodite. Even before Jacinta takes him to the hospital, a plane ride away, over a week later, Treadway has already decided to name the ba ...more
Jun 12, 2010 added it
Annabel is the story of Wayne, a hermaphrodite child born in rural Labrador, and his, or her, or "its" difficult journey to adulthood.

A story like this risks collapsing into all kinds of nonsense which is ultimately more political than literary, and the kinds of simplistic conflicts that are, unfortunately, suggested by the jacket copy. But Kathleen Winter is too sensitive and careful a writer to let that happen. It's Winter's characters, rather than any grand ideas about gender or sexuality, th
Sep 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-author
I loved the descriptions of the land throughout this book. The land is a character unto itself and forms the people into who they are. It’s harsh, embracing, beautiful and stark.
I read this book over 3 days; couldn’t wait to get back to it to find out what happens to Wayne, his parents and Thomasina; how they reconcile their guilt, uncertainty and come to terms with their true feelings.
There are aspects of this book that I’m less satisfied with but without giving out spoilers I can’t elaborate
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the World ...: Discussion for Annabel 6 47 Jan 06, 2018 02:32PM  
Wayne's feet 3 19 Aug 22, 2017 06:39AM  
Bailey's/Orange W...: Annabel - November Archive read 13 23 Dec 04, 2013 03:04AM  
Quotes & Excerpts: Dr. Lioukras.. 1 12 Jul 18, 2013 10:36PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Light Lifting
  • February
  • Grace Williams Says It Loud
  • When Everything Feels Like the Movies
  • This Cake is for the Party: Stories
  • The Antagonist
  • The Age of Hope
  • Cockroach
  • Cool Water (Juliet in August)
  • The Garneau Block
  • The Little Shadows
  • And the Birds Rained Down
  • Swamp Angel
  • Bone & Bread
  • The Custodian of Paradise
  • Indian Horse
  • Motorcycles & Sweetgrass
  • The Deception of Livvy Higgs
See similar books…
Kathleen's stories boYs (Biblioasis 2007) won Canada's Metcalf-Rooke Award and Winterset Award. Her novel, Annabel (House of Anansi Press 2010), was a finalist for all three of Canada's major literary awards. It became a #1 Canadian bestseller,came out in 2011 with Grove Atlantic/Black Cat in New York and Jonathan Cape in London, and has been translated wordwide. Her memoir "Boundless: Tracing Lan ...more
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“…People are rivers, always ready to move from one state of being into another. It is not fair, to treat people as if they are finished beings. Everyone is always becoming and unbecoming.” 54 likes
“Sometimes you had to be who you were and endure what happened to you, and to you alone, before you could understand the first thing about it.” 11 likes
More quotes…