Friday, January 3, 2014

Hitting the Books

The fun is boxed up and back in the attic. The serious work begins once again. Although holidays are pretty serious work around here. The setting up is the fun part. The taking down not so much. Almost finished but thought it was time to return to my books for Canada Reads. You may remember from a previous post that my book club (one that has been meeting for almost twenty years) has decided to do a mini Canada Reads contest of our own. The official one is held on CBC radio on Q in March. We are defending our book choices on January 9.

I have finished The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan and Annabel by Kathleen Winter. I am almost finished The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood and half way through Cockroach by Rawi Hage.

Today's post is for Annabel by Kathleen Winter
This is a photo of Kathleen from the Globe which I like better than the one that comes with the Canada Reads contest. And I am all for showing the best photos of ourselves to the public.

I am still struggling a bit with the concept of who should be a contestant in this contest. Should it be a writer who lives in Canada and writes about Canada, or a writer who lives in Canada and is an author worth reading but not necessarily a Canadian or whose work is set in Canada?
I found this troubling as I read Half Blood Blues which was an excellent read. The Orenda presented no such dilemma for me and was also an excellent read. 

Annabel does not present one either as it is set in Labrador.
Kathleen Winter (born February 25, 1960) is a Canadian short story writer and novelist.
Born in Bill Quay, near Gateshead in the north of England and raised in Newfoundland and Labrador, Winter began her career as a script writer for Sesame Street before becoming a columnist for The Telegram in St. John's. Her debut short story collection, boYs, was published in 2007 and won that year's Winterset Award and Metcalf-Rooke Award.
Her novel Annabel was published in 2010, and won the Thomas Head Raddall Award. It was a shortlisted nominee for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the 2010 Governor General's Awards. It held the distinction of being the only novel to make the short list of all three awards in 2010. In 2011 it was shortlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize for FictionShe lives in Montreal with her Québécois husband and is the sister of novelist Michael Winter.

Kathleen Winter fits the definition of a Canadian author.  I could relax and read the story. I found it a good read. I had no problems keeping at it and often found myself thinking about the characters and the story (often a good sign that I like a book if I think about it when I am not reading it and I can remember what it was about forever).

"I first stayed in Labrador while making a documentary film about a young aboriginal woman and her songwriting. I stayed in the bush, in the hunting tents of the Innu people, and the land spoke to me powerfully. I decided to go back numerous times, teaching and visiting people I had come to know there. I wrote journals there but had no intention of setting any fiction there until I began writing Annabel. The power of the land in Labrador and the power of Wayne/Annabel's story came together intuitively." Kathleen Winter. 

I am not sure about some of the cover choices I found online.

This is my copy's cover: 
Quite bland in terms of the story itself but gentle in its own way.

These are two I found on Amazon.
This illustration is too distorted for my liking.

I'm not sure I like the character exposed this way. 

"The hero/ine of “Annabel” is Wayne Blake, an intersexual born to a working-class couple on the Labrador coast in 1968. Wayne is born with an undersize penis, one testicle and a vagina. In accordance with the conventions of the time, the infant is surgically rendered “male” by doctors who sew up the vagina and begin a regimen of androgenizing hormones. Everyone agrees never to tell Wayne what he had when he was born. Wayne’s father, in particular, is desperate for his child to be a “real boy,” while Wayne’s mother begins a lifetime of secretly nurturing the girl in him, haunted by the feeling that she has “murdered” her own daughter."Stacey D’Erasmo Sunday Book Review The New York Times

The story is one that holds my attention and the author has set it in Canada. It is a bit "soft" on the challenges of being born inter sexual yet I like that we don't wallow in the angst of it all. We are led to feel an empathy for the main character and his family. 

It is going to be a challenge to pick from this grouping of novels!!


  1. that novel about the intersexual seems rather complex and i agree that i don't like the last cover either. Interesting what makes an author Canadian etc. I think they were discussing some entries for the booker where authors have to be from the common wealth and they were disputing some valid authors and whatnot. You read so much that you are putting most of us to shame!! Happy new year to you

  2. Wow that sounds like a fascinating book. I don't like the online covers you found. I wouldn't pick them up in a bookstore. Interesting you call her a Canadian writer. I've lived in the US for 45 years, but since I was born in Canada, if I wrote a book I'd still consider myself Canadian. Have a great weekend. You do read some amazing books!

  3. Interesting! I am impressed you are getting through them so quickly. For some reason I am reading beasts these days - am reading The Goldfich nos which is long, too, plus some other stuff, but am really loving The Goldfinch! I am interested in this one. My grandmother told me that one of our distant relatives was a hermaphrodite, so that's the first thing I checked for when I had a baby!

  4. The bookclubs have pushed me into reading more and usually "better" books than I would have read. Yikes Wendy new moms have so much to worry about I cannot imagine thinking about that one too!!