Deafening : [a novel] / Frances Itani.

Main Author: Itani, Frances, 1942-
Published: Toronto : HarperPerennialCanada, c2004.
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Review by Booklist Review

Grania O'Neill has been deaf since an early childhood fever, and since then has miraculously managed to move within both the world of silence and the world of sound. Leaving her intimate Canadian hometown for the Ontario School for the Deaf, she learns sign language and finds Jim, who expresses his love for her by describing beautiful sounds. Unfortunately for their marriage, Jim is off to the trenches of World War I, where the sounds (and sights) are horrifying indeed. For their love to survive, Jim and Grania must overcome not only the sound barrier, but weather, distance, and fear (not to mention gas attacks and influenza epidemics). Less a love story than an inventive fusion of a deaf woman's narrative and a soldier's tale, Itani's American debut unfolds with slow, deliberate eloquence and brilliantly described sights and sounds. Jim and Grania pine as wartime separated lovers do, but their story's real strength is their separate, if parallel, struggles to deal with their unforgiving surroundings. Her original treatment of classic wartime romance will make Itani's readers want more. --Brendan Driscoll

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

War and deafness are the twin themes of this psychologically rich, impeccably crafted debut novel set during WWI. Born in the late 19th century, Grania O'Neill comes from solid middle-class stock, her father a hotel owner in Deseronto, Ontario, her mother a God-fearing daughter of an Irish immigrant. When Grania is five, she loses her hearing to scarlet fever. When she is nine, she is sent to the Ontario Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in Belleville and given an education not only in lipreading, signing and speaking but also in emotional self-sufficiency. After graduating, she works as a nurse in the Belleville hospital, where she meets and falls in love with Jim Lloyd. They marry, but Jim is bound for the war as a stretcher bearer. His war is hell on earth: lurid wounds; stinks; sudden, endless slaughter redeemed only by comradeship. Itani's remarkably vivid, unflinching descriptions of his ordeal tend to overshadow Grania's musings on the home front, but Grania's story comes to the fore again when her brother-in-law and childhood friend, Kenan, comes back to Deseronto from the trenches in Europe with a dead arm and a half-smashed face, refusing to speak. Grania, who was educated to configure sounds she couldn't hear into words that "the hearing" could understand, brings Kenan back to life by teaching him sounds again, and then by making portraits of the people in the town whom she, Kenan and her sister Tress know in common. As she talks to Kenan, she reinvigorates him with a sense that his life, having had such a rich past, must have a future, too. This subplot eloquently expresses Itani's evident, pervasive faith in the unexpected power of story to not only represent life but to enact itself within lives. Her wonderfully felt novel is a timely reminder of war's cost, told from an unexpected perspective. (Sept.) Forecast: Itani's first novel is reminiscent of Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy and has a good chance of striking a similar popular chord, backed up by a 100,000 first printing, $100,000 promo budget and a 17-city author tour. Foreign rights sold in 12 countries. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Scarlet fever robs Grania O'Neill of her hearing when she is five years old. After learning to sign and read lips, she is sent, at nine, to the Ontario School for the Deaf. Determined to make a life for herself without becoming a burden to her family, Grania works at the school hospital after graduation until she meets and marries Jim Lloyd. Shortly after their wedding, he heads off to the Great War as a stretcher bearer. Award-winning Canadian writer Itani does a good job of presenting her considerable research into education for the hearing-impaired in the early 20th century, small-town Canadian life, and World War I trench warfare, without allowing the details to overshadow what is essentially a character study and romance. Lorraine Hamelin reads with both sensitivity and humor and handles Grania's dialog well, making it sound realistic and intelligible. Sections of Deafening could easily have come across as too sentimental or too grim, but Hamelin keeps the emotional elements under control. Recommended for all collections.-Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.