About the book
Annabel by Kathleen Winter is a LGBTQ novel. The book was published by Vintage on 1st March 2012 and it is 480 pages long.
Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com)
In 1968, into the devastating, spare atmosphere of the remote coastal town of Labrador, Canada, a child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor fully girl, but both at once. Only three people are privy to the secret: the baby’s parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbor and midwife, Thomasina. Though Treadway makes the difficult decision to raise the child as a boy named Wayne, the women continue to quietly nurture the boy’s female side. And as Wayne grows into adulthood within the hyper-masculine hunting society of his father, his shadow-self, a girl he thinks of as "Annabel," is never entirely extinguished.
What I thought
For my final essay for my Reading Gender and Sexuality class at university, I got to choose either one or two books of my own choice to use with either one or two from the course. The most interesting for me on the course concerned transgender and my sister highly recommended this one to me to use as well.
Annabel tells the story of a family living in a remote town in Canada. The town is very male driven, with the men of each family going out to hunt etc. Women are mostly stay at home mums and very few of them have ‘important’ jobs. When Jacinta and Treadway have a baby, everything changes. The baby is born a hermaphrodite and the couple have no idea how to deal with that, let alone how to bring the baby up. I really enjoyed the slow build up in this novel, as the setting is a very important thing. Being set in a town where different is not celebrated, and due to it being set in the late ‘60s, Kathleen Winter addresses issues which would have been seen to be controversial.
As Jacinta and Treadway bring up baby Wayne, it is never clear whether or not it was the right thing to do. The novel questions whether how a person is brought up can really affect the way they turn out later in life. Treadway never wants to admit that Wayne could actually be more female and feminine so he spends a lot of time and effort trying to teach Wayne the ‘right’ ways to be a man especially in the town in which they live. It was interesting to see the different influences that different people had on Wayne as this showed both his masculine and feminine side.
Winter makes sure that the reader gets to see things from all sides, which was something I really appreciated. I don’t think that I would have cared as much about Wayne, had I not gotten to know his parents and friends and how each separate person treated him. Wayne on his own was a wonderful character though and one who was easy to warm to. For a large part of the book, Wayne doesn’t know anything about when he was born and what the family went through so admission and acceptance are strong themes within the novel. A lot of time is spent on Wayne’s childhood and him being a teenager which were some of the best chapters of this book. From following Wayne as a baby right until his twenties, Winter makes it possible to understand and have empathy for him.
Annabel is a really important novel which tackles some serious issues. What I loved so much about this is the crossover into the young adult genre. I think that this book appeals a lot to adults as well as young adults and there is something in there for everyone. The novel is beautifully and thoughtfully written and one which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.