Shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General's Award for Fiction, and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
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 tale about one person's struggle to discover the truth about their birth and self in a culture that shuns contradiction.
Kathleen Winter is the author of the international bestseller, Annabel, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and CBC’s Canada Reads. Her first collection of stories, boys, won both the Winterset Award and the Metcalf–Rooke Award. A long-time resident of St. John’s, Newfoundland, she now lives in Montreal.
. . . Annabel is a novel about divisions, not only between the sexes but also between social classes and, perhaps most crucially, ways of being . . . Winter does a deft job of developing all the characters fully and making their motives understandable . . . It's to Winter's credit that both the fear and the beauty are given vivid expression in this finely crafted novel.
. . . a confident, serious debut.
. . . a captivating romantic novel with a happy ending.
Winter's dazzling debut addresses the riddle of gender and the tragedy of conformity with astonishing insight and eloquence.
Annabel is a stunning and stirring debut that signals the long-overdue arrival of a literary talent.
. . . beautifully paced, sometimes shocking and never prurient.
. . . utterly original . . . a haunting story of family, identity, and the universal yearning to belong.
...a sprawling book filled with musical prose...
This is a remarkable first novel, an accomplished debut by an exciting new voice with a confident, mature style.
Annabel's strength lies in probing the dilemma of sexuality and self-knowledge. I have never read such an intimate portrait of a person struggling to live inside a self that the world sees as a dreadful mistake.
Annabel is an unforgettable novel of struggles, personal and inter-personal, and Winter's empathetic voice does them justice in a way that connects reader to story. Destined to be one of the biggest novels out of Newfoundland this year, this is a story of isolation and a communication breakdown that breaks a family down, and breaks the reader down along with them.
A book like this, its topic and beautiful language, the unrelenting sorrow, Winter's insightful characterizations and utter sensitivity, is difficult to do justice to with these few words. I simply want to tell people: read this book. Read it though you know little or nothing about its subject or the author. It will open you up. It will change you.
Read it because it's a story told with sensitivity to language that compels to the last page, and read it because it asks the most existential of questions. Stripped of the trappings of gender, [Kathleen] Winter asks, what are we?
. . . a poignant and powerful first novel . . .
The Montreal-based Winter, a native of Newfoundland, possesses a rare blend of lyrical brilliance, descriptive power and psychological and philosophical insight...A compelling, gracefully written novel about mixed gender that sheds insight as surely as it rejects sensationalism. This book announces the arrival of a major writer.
[Kathleen Winter's] lyrical voice and her crystalline landscape are enchanting.
Reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides' magnificent 2002 novel Middlesex, Winter's treatment of such a delicate issue is amazing and incredibly engaging. Her novel is written with immense sensitivity and grace, not to be missed.
...a stunning novel, one of the rare kind that might well imbed itself permanently in a reader's psyche.