A Reader's Diary

Friday, March 10, 2006

Review of Deafening by Frances Itani

Today's review:

Deafening by Frances Itani (literary fiction; historical; Canadian)

Summary: When Grania is just five years old, scarlet fever robs her of her hearing, then her language. But her loving and dedicated grandmother helps her to learn to read and to speak again. Later Grania is sent to the Ontario School for the Deaf in Belleville, where she learns to sign and to speak properly with her voice. As a young woman, she meets Jim, a hearing man, and they marry. Yet only two short weeks after their wedding, he leaves for the battlefields of WWI Europe. They write to each other, but their most powerful and emotional letters are written only in their minds. While some families receive tragic news and others wait for word, the 1918 influenze pandemic hits with a devastating impact, and people try their best to hold on to life and hope.

My thoughts: Deafening is a beautiful story. The contrast between the innocence of Grania's enclosed childhood and the harshness of war is striking. It is a love story, but not only a romantic one: it tells of the love between grandmother and grand-daughter, older sister and younger, husband and wife. Although I would have liked a longer ending, or an epilogue, the reader can use her or her imagination to fill in the gaps of what happened afterwards, and to many readers this may be preferable. All in all, a beautifully written story that hold your attention (not always easy in literary fiction) and stay with you long after you have closed the covers.

Itani dedicates her novel in part to her own grandmother, who was deaf since the age of one.

Happy reading!


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