Five words from the blurb: baby, secret, boy, girl, struggle
Annabel begins in 1968 with the birth of a baby in a remote part of north-west Canada. Everything about the infant is normal, apart from the fact it has both male and female sexual organs. In order to fit in the parents decide to bring their child up as a boy called Wayne, keeping the dual sex a secret from almost everyone – including Wayne. This book is a coming-of age story in which Wayne slowly learns the truth about his birth and battles against the inner female feelings he calls “Annabel”.
The writing was very crisp and precise, with many beautiful descriptions of life in this harsh, cold community. Unfortunately the distant, almost clinical writing style made it hard to connect with the characters on an emotional level. I longed to know what was going on inside Wayne’s head, but instead the reader is just an outside observer, witnessing only the major events in his life. I wanted to know his thoughts on a day-to-day level, but unfortunately I was only able to get brief glimpses of his inner turmoil.
Much of the book was written from the perspective of the parents and this raised some complex parenting issues. I initially enjoyed thinking about the pros and cons of letting a child be themselves versus the importance of fitting into society, but I quickly realised that I really wanted the book to concentrate on Wayne. Every time the narrative followed another character I became frustrated and longed for the focus to switch back to him. The last few chapters almost managed to satisfy my craving for knowledge of Wayne, but it was too little, too late.
Annabel was compelling enough to draw me through to the end, but I was left unsatisfied by the novel as a whole. In comparison to the wonderful Middlesex this book was lacking depth and emotion.
Recommended to those who like their fiction restrained, without any hint of melodrama.
Opinions were mixed on this one:
The whole story was heartbreaking and beautiful. Amy Reads
To be honest, I had a hard time with the first half of this rather large book. The Mookse and the Gripes
I feel like I’m doing a lot of gushing lately, but I really, really loved this book. Reading Through Life