Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The third book voted off of Canada Reads 2014 is: Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Annabel by Kathleen Winter was the third book to be voted off Canada Reads 2014. The book was defended by Sarah Gadon who "is one of Canada's most promising young actors and a rising star in Hollywood. She has appeared in David Cronenberg's two most recent films, A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis, and will be seen in several major films in 2014"(

This book focuses on an intersex child who is assigned as a male named Wayne by his mother. Born and raised in Newfoundland, as Wayne grows and discovers the world, he can't help but identify with his inner feminine side named Annabel. This is a powerful novel that forces the reader to examine the disparate between choosing who to be, and having who you are bequeathed upon you by something greater.

I think, what makes this book Canadian (other than the setting of Newfoundland), is the deep sense of isolation that each of the characters seems to feel. There’s a difference between a character simply being on their own—versus a character who is truly isolated from society through an experience, or in Wayne/Annabel’s case, their own body and identity. This book goes deeper then dealing with a intersex person who feels lost—instead of showing them as the only lost person, Winter does an excellent job at holding this character up to a handful of isolated people allowing the reader to compare and identify with a character that they normally wouldn’t identify with. The debaters of Canada Reads 2014 argue over the impossibility of the pregnancy that Wayne/Annabel experiences, and how it doesn't line up with the reality that the novel initially institutes. Gadon rebuts with the explanation that Winter intended this as a metaphoric pregnancy in order to better stir the reader. It is important to note that this is not the only novel in the top five Canada Reads 2014 list that does this, as Cockroach by Rawi Hage dives into numerous metaphors and analogies to help make its point. This debate seems to be the biggest reason that Annabel was voted off.

The theme of Canada Reads 2014 is “What is the novel that could change Canada?”, and Winter certainly does a wonderful job at bringing a multitude of relevant identity and sexual orientation controversies to the limelight. These are relevant battles that Canadians are dealing with today. Hopefully, this novel will shine a different light onto issues that some readers may have overlooked.

This novel has not won Canada Reads 2014, but it still has the potential to beset change on any reader who chooses to invest in it.

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