Sep 11, 2011

Tiny Monkey - Annabel, by Kathleen Winter

It's time for a new style of review, methinks. I am far behind in my postings of late, and a lesser monkey would likely give up.

A bigger monkey would post every day. A silverback gorilla, say.

But I, a lowly chimp stuck in the middle, can only do so much.

And so, I present my newest review format, the Tiny Monkey (who doesn't love tiny monkeys?)! A quick rundown of a novel that allows you access to my innermost thoughts, yet dispenses with the long-winded criticism and obscure asides that are my hallmark!

Yes, I'm lazy, but to catch up, this is what I'm doing. I will not be completely abandoning in-depth critical snarkiness, mind you, just forgoing it for the time being.

And so, the inaugural entry of Tiny Monkey:

Annabel (Anansi, 2010)
by Kathleen Winter

In 1968, into the beautiful, spare environment of remote coastal Labrador, a mysterious child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor girl, but both at once. Only three people are privy to the secret -- the baby's parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbour, Thomasina. Together the adults make a difficult decision: to raise the child as a boy named Wayne. But as Wayne grows to adulthood within the hyper-masculine hunting culture of his father, his shadow-self -- a girl he thinks of as Annabel -- is never entirely extinguished, and indeed is secretly nurtured by the women in his life.
Haunting, sweeping in scope, and stylistically reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, Annabel is a compelling debut novel about one person's struggle to discover the truth in a culture that shuns contradiction.
What the Tiny Monkey thinks: 

Captured within the pages of Annabel is some of the most exquistely exacting prose I've come across. There are sentences that take my breath away, and I have rarely if ever witnessed an author so accurately capture the dynamics of family relationships. Winter's reproduction of Jacinta's and Treadway's marriage is breathtaking, and the undercurrent of confusion that paints Wayne's relationship with his father is heartbreaking. The ending is somewhat of a letdown, being more traditional and unsurprising than what has happened before, and I'm not entirely convinced of Treadway's ultimate circumstance being organic to the story. But Wayne's unique bildungsroman is a treasure, and when Annabel flies, it soars. Kathleen Winter has penned a jewel, and joins her brother Michael (go read The Big Why right now) into the ranks of Canada's next generation of great authors.

Tiny Monkey Really Likes

1 comment:

Buried In Print said...

Annabel will be on my list of favourite reads for this year, and thanks for the nudge towards The Big Why; I'd read his This All Happened, and haven't made time for another yet...but this one sounds unmissable.

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