Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A possible Booker contender?, 17 April 2011
This review is from: Annabel (Hardcover)
Rose Tremain covered slightly similar territory to this book in her novel, 'Sacred Country'. While that novel portrayed the life of a trans-sexual person, this one tells the story of a child born neither fully male nor female, but both at once.

One of the things that makes this book quite different, though, is that it is set in remote, coastal Labrador, in the far north-east of Canada. The evocation of the ways of life of the trappers and the women in this community is excellent as is the wonderful sense of place. Also brought vividly to life, is the time period (the novel begins in 1968) and this is often done through reference to contemporary television programmes, food products and music: this was the era of 'The Tide is High', Caramel Logs from the sweetshop and the gameshow, 'Truth or Consequences'.

This is a novel about family love and community bonds. About the fierce, unconditional love of a mother for her son, Wayne, who journeys to become her daughter Annabel; the way in which a father, despite the traditional ways of his own upbringing, comes to a redemptive relationship with his child. It is about the power of friendship and reveals the ways in which people can be different from our initial judgement of them. It is haunting and deeply moving.

There are wonderful moments the capture universal experiences, such as this:
'Wayne's sadness over Jacinta was the sadness all sons and daughters feel when their ferry starts moving and the parent stands on the dock, waving and growing tiny. A sadness that stings, then melts in a fresh wind.'

One character, Thomasina, who travels to Europe and beyond, represents the wider world and it's sensibilities impinging on the smaller world of a remote community. The city of St. John's in Newfoundland, symbolises for both Wayne-Annabel and his mother a place of greater freedom, somewhere that lives in memory or becomes a wider world where new beginnings become possible.

This is an extraordinarily accomplished and mature debut novel. It has just recently been short-listed for the Orange Prize for fiction. If it were to make the Booker shortlist too, I think my money would be on it!
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