Annabel by Kathleen WinterAnnabel by Kathleen Winter


byKathleen Winter

Paperback | February 26, 2011

see the collection LGBTQ+ Fiction

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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 M...
Title:AnnabelFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:480 pages, 8 × 5.25 × 1.15 inShipping dimensions:8 × 5.25 × 1.15 inPublished:February 26, 2011Publisher:House Of Anansi Press IncLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0887842909

ISBN - 13:9780887842900


Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting The novel takes place in Labrador. A baby is born to Juanita and Treadway. It is born as a hermaphrodite (a baby with both sexes). Juanita, not trusting her own intuition takes the baby to the local hospital where the doctor uses penis length as the determining factor in sex determination. The result, the baby is determined to be a boy and named Wayne. Wayne then begins his life of pill regime upon pill regime. It is not until Grade 7 that the truth of his being is revealed to him. How Wayne need to recon with feelings he has always wondered about and make a life comittment decision.
Date published: 2018-06-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Sweeping Tale of Family Ties, the Quest for Identity and the Need to Belong Kathleen Winter’s “Annabel” was a finalist, or on the longlist, for no less than six major book awards and won the “Thomas Head Raddle Atlantic Fiction Award”. My expectations were therefore high when I cracked the cover. I wondered if it would live up to the hype. Fortunately, it did deliver. “Annabel” is set in 1968 in remote, coastal Labrador where tradition rules and contradiction is suspect by definition. A hermaphrodite child – not fully boy or girl, but rather both at once – is born to Jacinta and Treadway Blake. Only one person beyond the parents, neighbour and friend Thomasina Baikie, is aware of the situation. A decision is made to raise the child as a boy named Wayne and the necessary medical treatments occur over time. But Wayne is increasingly aware of his feminine side – a girl he thinks of as “Annabel” for reasons he only vaguely understands – which sets him on a life course that conflicts with his heritage and drives a subtle but powerful wedge between his parents. Kathleen Winter creates compelling characters who each struggle to be true to themselves, while grappling with the enormity of the secret they keep, in this sweeping tale of family ties, the quest for identity and the need to belong. She writes with an engaging, lyrical voice and depicts in rich detail the physical landscape of Labrador and its imprint on the people born and raised there.
Date published: 2017-12-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not my favourite Giller winner I enjoyed this because the character development is interesting. But, overall it wasn't the most captivating read.
Date published: 2017-12-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not impressed I read Annabel for my 2017 Reading Challenge in the category of a Giller prize winner or nominee. I found the story to be unbelievable. For example, that a piece of glass would land so perfectly in her throat to cause permanent damage to Wallis' vocal cords. I am also tired of sexual violence being the only thing that defines what it is to be a woman.
Date published: 2017-11-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok this is such a great book! I loved the plot, storyline, and everything in between!
Date published: 2017-09-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well written Well written novel ,with a good character development.
Date published: 2017-07-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not Sure How i Feel About This Book I think there needs to be some map checking when it comes to the authors description of some parts of St. Johns. Some descriptions were off or completely wrong from I remember of St. Johns sometimes i felt like there was product placement with brands that were mentioned. However if you are familiar with Newfoundlanders you will now that is how they talk. For example, we say eagle milk when talking about sweetened condensed milk. The story i found was pretty good but could of been better and more clear. The author did good with capturing the conflicting interests of both the mother and father of the main character.
Date published: 2017-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Must Read Really well written and evocative, I haven't got this into a book in a long time. Having lived in Labrador, it really rang true for me. It really makes you think about gender and how restrictive our ideas of it are.
Date published: 2017-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent book Loved the characters, the setting, the writing... it was all very good.
Date published: 2017-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this story Everything about this book gets it right.
Date published: 2017-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Revelatory This was a book that really touched me. Winter has a humane touch and you develop a great deal of empathy and understanding for the titular character. It provides much needed exposure to the experience of intersex individuals.
Date published: 2016-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought Provoking and Eye Opening Whether you already have an awareness of the existence of intersex individuals or you have never even heard of the term I think you will take something away from reading this book. This book is very human, you will absolutely connect with this character and really root for their happiness.
Date published: 2016-12-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Inner self We're all looking at ourselves and judging. Self acceptance is dificult. We all have secrets that no one would really care about. We are not so different from each other.
Date published: 2015-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Grabs you, and doesn't let go Simply a tremendous story about a young intersex person in rural eastern Canada trying to find themselves.
Date published: 2015-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful and special book I loved this book. It deals with an important and timely issue with tenderness and humour. It's a celebration.
Date published: 2015-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sublime A rare gem. I recommend this book wholly to all who are, or have been seeking their way in the world. An incredible of storey of courage in the face of the unknown, unmarked journey.
Date published: 2014-12-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It’ll stay with you When I was listening to Canada Reads on CBC Radio and heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. It was touted for its subject and its characters. I heartily echo those accolades. Annabel is about Wayne, a hermaphrodite who grows up in a small community in Labrador during the 1980’s. There are so many layers to this book that make it a truly wonderful read. The characters are complex, believable, and memorable. The writing is absolutely beautiful at times – so much so, that I missed a subway stop because I was caught up in a description of the wilderness. And, in my opinion, the exploration of gender, and its nature and nurture is fascinating. Plus the way this book dealt with silence was poignant and true. Really, the only thing I didn’t like about this book is that it had to end.
Date published: 2014-11-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Annabel An interesting look into another reality.....
Date published: 2014-09-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Annabelle Great read. Left a lot in the mind to think about.
Date published: 2014-08-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved it! Very sweet tale, a touching story that I highly recommend :)
Date published: 2014-08-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A sad but happy This is a story about a child that was born with many differences. That other people made it how they wanted the child to be. It wasn't till the adult left home that it became it's true self. It's a wonderful story with many "ups and downs " and a happy ending.
Date published: 2014-06-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Detailed in description Our diverse book club gave Annabel an average rating of 4 as we had those who really enjoyed reading it and others who found it tough to get through. In discussion it was mentioned how the details truly brought you to the place and you could envision the actual surroundings in certain scenes, be it Labrador in general or the "fort" that Wayne and Wally spend their time in. I especially enjoyed the peacefulness of Treadway and strength of Thomasina who even in error wanted to support Wayne. We would have liked to see more of Jacinta but it seems that character would have lost sight of things whether she had a hermaphrodite child or not...she was isolated physically by where she lived but spiritually and emotionally. Her husband found peace in nature and because their way of life sent him away it kept him grounded...he definitely was redeemed for any poor choices by the end of the book. Any child who learns they are different in such an enormous way will experience hardship but the main character seems to have found a way to start making choices. Wayne accepts that Annabel is a part of him at this stage in his life; this may or may not change over time. Where is Annabel now? We believe she is still with Wayne, who is Wayne to those who know him and Annabel and Wayne both to those who love him.
Date published: 2014-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful This is a beautifully written story. The author's description of the surroundings and people is moving. The story will capture you from the first page.
Date published: 2014-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Annabel Powerful! Loved it so much. Thank you for opening my heart and my eyes.
Date published: 2014-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read A fine ending
Date published: 2014-01-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Annabel by Kathleen Winter Hauntingly descriptive of raw nature of outer world and inner turmoil of an exceptional child growing up in Labrador.
Date published: 2014-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Strange subject, but loved the characters and their inner workings.... It is a story you are not meet Treadway and Jacinta and their baby. But there is a secret about their baby that they only know and the midwife, Thomasina. As the child grows up and is unknown to its secret, it pulls on Jacinta and her relationship with her husband, Treadway. Yet, Treadway tries to understand the child, but confronts challenges with their relationship. The child has a close relationship with Thomasina and she tries to challenge and engage the child. But later circumstances unfold and the secret is not a secret anymore. But as the child, become themselves, they search and see where they must belong in their world. Lovely descriptives of the landscape of Labrador and the character's internal thinking. Enjoyed!
Date published: 2013-06-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The book of the season Annabel by Kathleen Winters “Have you read Annabel?” is the question I keep overhearing this summer. Written by a Montrealer, set in Labrador and about male/female roles as exemplified by hermaphrodism, this book has qualities to interest a large audience. There is also the wisdom and sensitivity of the author, her love and knowledge of life in Labrador, her understanding of children and teenagers, her quest for the best in people, her full characterizations and her interesting questions about the dichotomy and harmony of the sexes which make this book the read of the season. This is the second book that I have read about hermaphrodism and I found it more reflective, focused and sensitive than Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Annabel makes us think about the sublimated side in all of us, our sex role models and expectations, and provokes the question of whether there is a middle way which would incorporate the best traits of both sexes. Annabel is a first novel and some of its bones do show through. The symbolism of bridges becomes laboured after a while and the friend and teacher, Thomasina, is too evidently a deus ex machina figure. I find that she comes in and out of the action too fortuitously and impermanently and her role becomes plot-turning rather than characterization. I was also disappointed that Winter was unable to sustain the character of Jacinta. She is a strong figure early in the narrative and embraces the fullness and opportunities of her child’s potential. But Winters does not seem able to find a niche for her as Thomasina and Treadway become more influential in plot development. Winter’s interest shifts to the complexities of Treadway who is a master of woodland lore and an auto-didact of considerable depth. His character experiences the most growth as he denies, struggles, and finally accepts and supports his son’s sexual duality. Winter’s prose is a delight to read. She tells her story with details that are restrained and evocative and have the ring of truth. As Jacinta’s marriage falters under the stress of Wayne’s challenges, we read: (p.163) “Jacinta swept the floors and wiped the counters, then got a bucket of red-hot water with Pine-Sol in it and a mop, and scoured the kitchen floor and hallway. She dumped the water down the toilet and filled the bucket again, then put rubber gloves on and took a rag and a scrubbing brush and got down on her knees on an old flat cushion and washed every speck of dirt out of the corners and of the baseboards, then she washed down the stairs by hand, and polished the toaster and the fridge, and washed the fingerprints off the walls near all the light switches and off the doors near the doorknobs and off the telephone. She went outside and then came in again to smell with a fresh nose how clean the house smelled, and then she got in bed beside sleeping Treadway and thought how good it would be when he went on his trapline, how there would be fewer footprints to clean.” Another time, the lonely Jacinta explains why she enjoys listening to the radio: (p.93) “I know it’s not real company, but the radio is something. It’s a comforting voice that lets you know you’re not alone in the world. I need that.” We hear more truth from Treadway as he tries to give his son some fatherly advice:(p.103) “ Boys, in Labrador, Wayne, are like a wolf pack. We’ve got to be like members of the dog family. We’ve got to know what each other is doing. That’s how you survive.” Winter’s descriptions are sharply observed and cleverly incorporated into the narrative by including the characters’ response to them. When Wayne moves, on his own, to St. John’s, NFLD, we read: (p.316) “He could smell the ocean in a different way than he had smelled it in Labrador. Sewage ran into the harbour here, and there was a lot of it, with gulls circling over the outlet down below Caine’s Grocery, and you could smell it. There were also smells of seaweed, and fish and chips and vinegar from a van on the street. The houses were much brighter yellows, reds and greens than in Labrador, and they were tall and narrow and stuck together. The houses looked bright but stern, and the air was so clear the colours shouted out loud at him, and he felt weary from the force of all the corners and the sharp lines of the clapboard.” Winter ends her book optimistically with the hope that Wayne will find his niche in academia where study and ideas and open-mindedness are more important than sexual divisions. And she gives her character that greatest of gifts: a true friend. She leaves her readers with a new appreciation of the distant land of Labrador, some memorable characters, and a story that is fresh, challenging and a delight to read. Read more of my reviews at
Date published: 2011-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Read this book! I loved this book. It was a wonderful heartfelt story. A joy to read.
Date published: 2011-05-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wondrously evocative! The spare prose and stark landscape are effective in bringing the reader to the time, place, and emotions that fill the pages. The four main characters are drawn with compassionate strokes, and give the reader rich food for thought. I will continue to carry Wayne/Annabel within me, like a personal memory.
Date published: 2011-03-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wayne or Annabel In a remote village in Labrador a child is born a hermaphrodite. When the doctors decide that the child should be raised as a boy because of the measurement of the penis, his outer female sex organs are removed. Jacinta & Treadway (the child's parents) struggle with the identity of their child (Wayne) almost as much as Wayne does. This story is the journey that Wayne takes with his female shadow self Annabel. This story is beautifully written, the characters very likable, and the setting of Labrador and St. John's described very vividly. I felt as if the lifestyle of these eastern areas of Canada were captured accurately. A novel about sexual identity,struggles, family dynamics, and life in rural Labrador make this novel a very compelling read. I especially loved the way the book was ended. Not tied up in a pretty bow but everyone in transition. My only issue with this novel was Jacinta's character. It seemed she fell off the face of the earth and she was a major character. All in all I still still loved this story and would recommend it .
Date published: 2011-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Haunting, Lyrical Read about a taboo subject In 1968, a baby was born to Jacinta and Treadway Blake. This takes place in a remote town in Labrador. The baby is born a hermaphrodite. Only the parents and one trusted neighbour are aware of the situation. The father wishes to raise him as a boy - Wayne Blake. His mother wishes to secretly embrace his female side - Annabel. As time goes on - Wayne realizes slowly and subtley that somehow he does not feel comfortable in his body. At times I felt that the story could have proceeded at a faster pace - but that slow pace is part of the magic and feeling of Labrador, I suspect. One gets a real feel for Labrador in days gone by - and at times the prose is nearly lyrical. Though a slow moving book in places - the story does move along through Wayne's school days, high school days -and further. The story is also a study of what makes us female or what makes us male - and what we have in common with both sexes. The ending is most satisfying - at least for me - though no defiinite answers are found. A very readable book, another wonderful look into Canadian living-and a most interesting topic for a book to delve into. I highly reccomend this wonderful read! This book is short listed for the Giller Prize. I think it has earned it's place and I hope it wins the Giller Prize.
Date published: 2010-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Novel What an incredible novel. This book centres around the life of Jacinta and her husband and her child. The setting is in Labrador. After finding out that the baby that Jacinta has just given birth to is a hermaphrodite, the parents must decide whether to raise the child as a boy or girl. Although at times I found the book was quite wordy, which made it bog down at times nontheless the reader is compelled to keep reading to find out how the story is going to end up. I loved this book, could not put it down and highly recommend it.
Date published: 2010-06-14

Editorial Reviews

"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." - Kirkus Reviews"...a sprawling book filled with musical prose..." - Emily Landau, The Walrus"[Kathleen Winter's] lyrical voice and her crystalline landscape are enchanting." - Sally Law, New Yorker"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." - Jim Piechota, Bay Area Reporter"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?" - Globe and Mail". . . utterly original . . . a haunting story of family, identity, and the universal yearning to belong." - O Magazine"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." - National Post"Annabel is a stunning and stirring debut that signals the long-overdue arrival of a literary talent." - Halifax Chronicle Herald"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." - Chad Pelley, St. John's Telegram"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." - Ottawa Citizen". . . 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." - Barbara Carey, Toronto Star". . . a poignant and powerful first novel . . ." - Donna Bailey Nurse, Montreal Gazette"This is a remarkable first novel, an accomplished debut by an exciting new voice with a confident, mature style." - Vanessa Berridge, Daily Express". . . beautifully paced, sometimes shocking and never prurient." - Maggie Fergusson, Intelligent Life Magazine"Winter's dazzling debut addresses the riddle of gender and the tragedy of conformity with astonishing insight and eloquence." - Richard Labonte, Gay Calgary and Edmonton Magazine". . . a confident, serious debut." - Carrie O'Grady, Guardian". . . a captivating romantic novel with a happy ending." - Jim Taylor, Canadian Literature"...a stunning novel, one of the rare kind that might well imbed itself permanently in a reader's psyche." - Rosalie MacEachern, New Glasgow News