Friday, December 28, 2007

Deafening by Frances Itani

In Deafening, Grania, a deaf woman growing up in Canada in the early 20th century, meets and falls in love with a hearing man, Jim. While Jim is soon off to fight in WWI, Grania stays at home and tries to cope without her beloved. Life is not easy for either, but through letters they try to keep their love alive.

I loved this book. Itani has written a wonderful and beautiful story about love and the obstacles lovers face. In this case, the obstacle is “distance”, not only the physical distance between the lovers while Jim is a stretcher-bearer in the war and Grania copes with life on the home front, but also the “distance” between the hearing and non-hearing world.

While I didn’t think I’d enjoy reading about the war, Itani’s story telling is so spectacular I found it very interesting and I truly enjoyed it. The graphic details about the war were a little gruesome, but necessary for the story. She gives the reader a real sense of what life was like in this time period not only with the war, but also life on the home front with returning soldiers and influenza.

One of my favourite parts was when Grania was young and was being taught by Mamo using the Sunday book and the explanations of how Mamo taught Grania to communicate. Mamo was one of my favourite characters. She was so loving and caring for Grania. I also loved when Jim was explaining how he thought the hands told the story of the last moments of people’s lives (not the face). He had a hard time looking at the dead men’s hands.

The P.S. section at the end of the book was enlightening, as usual. While I usually save it to read at the end, I find myself occasionally peeking back there to see what’s included. I especially loved that Itani included some additional reading recommendations. Wonderful.

It’s no wonder this book won so many awards. It’s fantastic.

Highly recommended. I’ll be looking for more of Itani’s work.

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