Friday Reads

ANNABEL

Set in the wilds of Canada’s North East Coast in the 1970s and 80s, this is the coming of age tale of Wayne Blake, an intersex child (the word hermaphrodite is used in the book) growing up in a world that his parents feel will never accept him.

 Wayne is assigned male after his birth, with the doctors measuring his genitalia and deciding it is long enough to be a penis, rather than a clitoris. This sentences Wayne, who is not told about his condition, to a life of male hormones and fighting against his bodies’ instincts towards the feminine. Although the fact that Wayne is assigned male because that is clearly the preferred state is referred to, if not commented on, this book, for the most part, isn’t about gender and what that may mean.

My favourite character by far in this book was not Wayne, who I considered underdeveloped. Wayne is an aesthetic child, and a lonely teenager still seeing beauty in everything even when been abused or neglected, but Wayne, ultimately, is a bit dull. My favourite story in this book is that of Wayne’s parents Treadway and Jacinta, and Treadway might be one of my favourite literary fathers ever.

Treadway is a man who is also aesthetic, but in a pure honest way. He seeks the beauty of solitude and nature, of woods and open skies and rivers and the sea, not glamour and fakery. Treadway feels trapped in enclosed environments, he belongs in the open out hunting and is fortunate that his life allows him this. He is a reader, he loves philosophy, learning about the world, and yet when it comes to the child he considers he son, because that is how he was brought up, he is at a complete loss. This book more than anything shows how relationships are a learning process, how parents know nothing, there is no manual, you are presented with a child and told ‘bring them up to be like you, but adapted for twenty years in the future, but that might change, but you won’t know, also they might not be anything like you and will hate you for that’.

What I love most is Treadway’s relationship with Jacinta, which suffers due to neither of them being able to communicate at all, with each other or anyone else. Jacinta has female friends her own age who she hangs with and gets drunk and yet never lets it slip that her child was born with what was considered a medical condition. I personally found that very hard to believe. As the couple drift apart as Wayne grows older and so do they, it is the non-verbal commuications that bring them back together. I maintain that chapter 29 of this book is a perfect short story in its own right, I read it on the train home and it made me have a small cry.

This is a good book, but I wouldn’t read it again. It is beautifully written, but Melinda Moustakis writes wilderness better. The ending is a complete cop out and its got Award Winning Screenplay written all over it. I would recommend it, as it’s a valuable read, but don’t get too excited. It is her debut though, and I look forward to her next.

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2 thoughts on “Friday Reads

  1. Hi Jess

    I really enjoyed reading your review as this was a book that I was evangelical about after I had read it.

    I loved this book! I felt that the characters were beautifully drawn and although the book is set in a part of the world I don’t know I felt I knew and understood them. The author captures that awkwardness of childhood when you are trying to understand your self and your feelings. That is difficult enough without all the things that Wayne was going through. The joy of finding a friend that understands you and likes doing similar things to you was also beautifully written.

    I cauld almost taste Waynes disappointment and misery after the play house incident and I wanted (and possibly I did) to weep with him. However I could also identify with that horrible gut wrenching misery and guilt that Treadway felt. It is so hard as a parent to seperate your wishes and hopes for your child from their own.

    I can’t remember feeling disappointed with the ending of the book, apart from the fact that the book was ending. Again I felt the author demonstrated the powerful (and sometimes damaging) love that a parent feels for their children, even when the relationship has not been easy.

    Right, I’m off to reserve the book again so I can read Chapter 29!

    Ali

  2. Pingback: Books Read 2012 | Jess Haigh

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