I’m entirely unsure if I spelled that right. I just finished a book titled “Deafening” by Frances Itani. I picked this up in the bargain fiction section at Barnes and Nobel, so no one should feel like they should have heard of that author. And just in case you’re wondering, I have read other books since The Handmaid’s Tale, but none of them were worth commenting on.
So this book is about a Canadian girl who lost her hearing to scarlet fever when she was five. It’s historical, taking place between 1900 and 1920, and encapsulates WWI. The first half is this very tender rendering of a little girl’s life, detailing her learning process as a deaf girl in a hearing world. Itani makes great use of sensory details, which I’m a sucker for. Then in the middle of the book the whole thing shifts over to an extremely gory rendition of the war. Then it ends.
The second half of the book reads like a fairly interesting anti-war pamphlet. This author makes at least one major mistake in the war half of the book by using the same gross-out tool twice in a row, which is not only disgusting, it’s lazy. I don’t actually know what WWI was fought over, and I still don’t know. This book focuses only on the atrocities, the body count, the poor women waiting at home. As far as this little world goes, there was no reason for that war at all, which I don’t quite buy.
So, all in all, the first half is wonderful, a very beautiful piece of fiction. The second half was gross and didn’t make it’s point very well. It seems clear that facts were left out to make the point more convincing, which isn’t going to convince the intelligent audience the book is appealing to. It ends rather abruptly, which was disapointing for such a delicate book.