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To sum up in one word BORING Because this book was on a bunch of lists this year, I expected it to be pretty good And kept expecting that it would improve as I got further along Sadly, neither was the case It started off slowly andor less petered out I really don t understand how it got any good press at all The characters were dull, the story such as it was dragged on and on and got nowhere When I was bogged down, I did check Goodreads to see if I was alone and with the men To sum up in one word BORING Because this book was on a bunch of lists this year, I expected it to be pretty good And kept expecting that it would improve as I got further along Sadly, neither was the case It started off slowly andor less petered out I really don t understand how it got any good press at all The characters were dull, the story such as it was dragged on and on and got nowhere When I was bogged down, I did check Goodreads to see if I was alone and with the mention of some big surprise near the end, I soldiered on ha ha a little reference to the book Unfortunately, it wasn t a huge surprise, it wasn t particularly interesting, and it wasn t worth waiting for Avoid this book Unless you need to be put to sleep for surgery or something like that He relaxed, leaned against the boards of the old barn and closed his good eye His right hand made a sign, a word A finger to his lips and back to his chest Tell,it seemed to be saying, but the word was directed at himself It was his private communication Tell.It is November of 1919 when we first meet Kenan Oak Armistice has been declared, and although the injured young man has been home from WWI for a year, he is just taking his first tentative steps towards healing, supported by his wif He relaxed, leaned against the boards of the old barn and closed his good eye His right hand made a sign, a word A finger to his lips and back to his chest Tell,it seemed to be saying, but the word was directed at himself It was his private communication Tell.It is November of 1919 when we first meet Kenan Oak Armistice has been declared, and although the injured young man has been home from WWI for a year, he is just taking his first tentative steps towards healing, supported by his wife and family in the tight knit community of Deseronto, Ontario The left side of his face is scarred and sightless, his left arm hangs dead and useless at his side, and shell shocked, Kenan was literally unable to speak when he first returned from Europe After spending a year locked away inside his home, most often looking out over the nearby bay from his veranda seat, Kenan begins to speak with the few visitors he will agree to see, and at night when he s sure the streets will be empty, Kenan begins to go for walks Still haunted by his wartime experiences, and finding themselves unable to conceive a child, Kenan finds an unbridgeable rift growing between himself and his wife Tress.Meanwhile, Tress Aunt Maggie and Uncle Am who live in an apartment in the Post Office clock tower and act as the building s caretakers also find themselves growing farther apart as they approach middle age It is eventually revealed that they have been suppressing secrets of their own, and when a handsome foreigner comes to town offering music lessons,than a long buried love of singing is reawakened in Maggie.Tell is essentially about the harm that is caused by secrets and suppressed memories It s unsurprising that author Frances Itani chose to explore these ideas in this time and place a small town at the turn of the twentieth century put plenty of pressure on families to hide their shameful skeletons put plenty of pressure on returning soldiers to deal with their problems alone The very first scene of the book has a woman giving her baby up for adoption and we later learn that Kenan had been adopted as an infant himself, and because of the stern home atmosphere created by the single man Uncle Oak who had taken him in, Kenan had never dared to ask any questions about his birth mother Oddly, for a book about memory, characters are always questioning what they remember Here s Kenan on the warAnd now in his Deseronto house, every inch of which he d explored with his good eye opened and his good eye closed, he wondered if he had invented the memories ofthan three and a half years of war Memories of staring up into night skies, expecting the stars to explode Waking up with dew dampening his uniform, puttees tightening around his lower legs Standing in wisps of fog that rolled low along the ground in the mornings, so that in every direction, only heads and torsos could be seen above the mist, while legless men called back and forth to one another as they shaved and laughed and groused and swore, and prepared to fill their mess tins for breakfast.He might have invented those memories, but he had not invented the war Here s Maggie on meeting a famous soprano a story she never told to anyonePerhaps the encounter had never taken place No, Maggie was certain it had And here s AmMemory It whipped him around in all directions And who was he to say whether his memories were accurate or not He never knew what would be laid bare Secrets and memory could have been very interesting themes, but I found this book a little scattered like the parts didn t hang together Characters are always reminiscing about making grape jelly, or skating from Deseronto to Nappanee, or living on a chicken farm but only being allowed an egg once a year at Easter and while each little story was interesting, they felt like true anecdotes that Itani had collected about the time period that she wanted to cram in for authenticity they were simply not revealed organically Another example There is a skating rink cleared on the ice behind Kenan s house, and although some action takes place there, it seems like it was used in the book solely because Itani includes excerpts from the archives of the Deseronto newspaper that described the skating rink and suggest the action that should be placed there Also, I thought that the apartment that Maggie and Am lived in in the Deseronto clock tower was a really fascinating detail until I learned that Itani s great great aunt and uncle had once been its inhabitants Tell feelslike overwrought journalism than prose And a final complaint it felt so unbelievable that Am and Maggie, having kept a secret for 25 years a totally not shameful secret that all of Deseronto had apparently colluded in suppressing would both break down and tell it to someone, separately, on the same day Adding improbability to slow and clunky writing resulted in a bit of a turkey for me, and a curious choice for this year s Giller Prize shortlist Frances Itani s recent novel, Tell, takes the reader back to the end of World War I and the last months of 1919 A young soldier, wounded and just released from medical treatment in England, comes home to his young wife and to the house he had never before seen from the inside How to return to a life of innocence and peace after what he has experienced Frances Itani delved into a theme that has not lost its power and relevance since then Many soldiers and their loved ones have suffered from w Frances Itani s recent novel, Tell, takes the reader back to the end of World War I and the last months of 1919 A young soldier, wounded and just released from medical treatment in England, comes home to his young wife and to the house he had never before seen from the inside How to return to a life of innocence and peace after what he has experienced Frances Itani delved into a theme that has not lost its power and relevance since then Many soldiers and their loved ones have suffered from what we now refer to as post traumatic stress disorder The story is set in the small town of Desoronto, Ontario, that had been at the centre at her award winning 2003 novel, Deafening Since then, Itani has gained recognition and praise for her ability to capture with great sensitivity an individual s psychological struggles to overcome physical and emotional scars and trauma Readers of the earlier novel will no doubt be familiar with both the place and quite a few of the protagonists When asked during an interview about her motivations for the new book, Ms Itani explained that she was not entirely finished with minor characters from my earlier novel, Deafening, who had stories of their own to tell While Tell is a self contained novel that does not require the background of the earlier one, I personally found that being aware of the other members of the close knit community and their backstories would most likely enrich the reading experience and understanding of the central characters in Tell The storyline evolves primarily around two couples, Kenan and Tress and her aunt and uncle, Maggie and Am Kenan, the young soldier, is deeply wounded in body and soul one side of his face his scarred he has lost the use of one eye and one arm He has withdrawn from family and friends and for a time even refuses to leave the house Tress has anxiously awaited her husband s return and now needs all her patience to relate to Kenan and to support him as best she can Trying to understand Kenan s silence on the one hand and attempting to slowly and gently rebuild their intimate relationship places a heavy burden on the young woman She loves her husband deeply and had hoped that they could restart their lives and think of a family She thought she knew Kenan well But, never having been much of a talker, he holds his thoughts and emotions deeply buried in his mind Vivid memories of scenes in the trenches disrupt his sleep How can anybody understand what he continues to go through It seems his only contact with the outside world that he enjoys is the exchange of letters with one of his friends from the front The character of Kenan is finely drawn and his slow recovery feels totally authentic In time, Kenan quietly leaves the house at night, unbeknownst to Tress, to wander through the woods away from the town He needs the solitude in nature Itani s account of these nightly wanderings is beautifully rendered You can literally take a deep sigh of relief with Kenan His right hand made a sign, a word A finger to his lips and back to his chest Tell, it seems to be saying, but the word was directed at himself It was his private communication Tell Tress seems to be a competent and kind person, but to me she seems stay in the background, as a lesser developed character She needs help and seeks advice and solace in the company of her aunt Maggie, who she has been close to since her childhood Maggie, however, has her own, long buried, scars that she cannot share and that has led to strains in her own marriage to Am Am does suffer from the silence in the home and feels drawn to Kenan Maybe the two men can help each other Itani captures the emotional struggles that Kenan and for different reasons Am go through with great empathy and sensitivity The silence between them slowly melts as Kenan increasingly regains his confidence in skating on the near by rink, at night The enjoyment of the sport they both love relaxes them and helps them to open up to each other and the reader will finally learnabout some of the long held secrets Desoronto s close knit community is shaken out of their passive acceptance of day to day reality by two outsiders the lively and energetic Zel, who opens a boarding house in the woods nearby, and the new choirmaster Lukas, a refugee from Europe who may or may not stay in Desoronto Zel is like balm for Maggie s soul The two become close friends Under Lukas guidance Maggie rediscovers her love for music and her talent for singing And, as can be guessed, music has additional healing powers that bring Maggie to a new realization of herself and her ambitions for her life Suffice to add that like all relationships that Itani develops in the novel the new friendship between Maggie and the two newcomers are handled with kindness and subtlety But their impacts not only on Maggie are long lasting Interestingly, Frances Itani opens her novel with a short chapter that describes a scene, set one year later than the rest of the novel It is intriguing as the reader wonders about the meaning, the individuals involved, etc I am not sure that this was the most successful way of tackling another major theme that interests the author in her novel, that of abandonment and adoption of an infant The novel will not appeal to every reader Itani s writing is detailed and descriptive, at times possibly a bit on the slow side The ending felt a bit rushed and unsatisfactory as the beginning and the end were tied together rather superficially Impeccably researched, and so well written a continuation of the world Itani created for her award winning DEAFENING, TELL follows the life of Grania s sister, Tress, and her husband Kenan, who has just returned, definitely not in one piece, from the front lines of the First World War It s a slow moving novel, in that much of it takes place after the action of the war, and is about Kenan dealing with being home The idea that the homefront was as much as a battle as the battle itself was a rea Impeccably researched, and so well written a continuation of the world Itani created for her award winning DEAFENING, TELL follows the life of Grania s sister, Tress, and her husband Kenan, who has just returned, definitely not in one piece, from the front lines of the First World War It s a slow moving novel, in that much of it takes place after the action of the war, and is about Kenan dealing with being home The idea that the homefront was as much as a battle as the battle itself was a reassuring theme throughout, and watching as Kenan navigates his return to life was one of the best parts of this novel.The complementary story of Tress s aunt Maggie was no less effective her own struggles of middle age, the issues that arise from an enduring marriage, and how the undercurrents of tragedy will eventually boil up to the surface This is an utterly readable novel, charming yet distilled, and I found it to be the perfect companion on my commute 4 1 2 This is a novel of strong characters, a remarkably rich and complex plot and lyrical and spare prose The story is set in a small Ontario town on the shores of Lake Ontario near the end of 1919 The book centers around young Kenan who has recently returned from hospital in Europe where he was sent to recover from catastrophic wounds he received in the Great War Kenan s adjustment to his life after the horrors he experienced at the front and while trying to come to grips with his new rea 4 1 2 This is a novel of strong characters, a remarkably rich and complex plot and lyrical and spare prose The story is set in a small Ontario town on the shores of Lake Ontario near the end of 1919 The book centers around young Kenan who has recently returned from hospital in Europe where he was sent to recover from catastrophic wounds he received in the Great War Kenan s adjustment to his life after the horrors he experienced at the front and while trying to come to grips with his new reality is so very typical of what soldiers very often experience after the terrible things they ve endured and witnessed in war He is damaged and disfigured from the wounds he received, and he realizes with terrible clarity that life will never be the same for him Kenan tries to adjust to life back in his hometown with his new wife whom he barely had time to know before he went off to war With the help of Tress, his wife, and his uncle and aunt Am and Maggie who have lost their own way because of their own secrets, he manages to slowly reestablish himself in his small community We see how long buried secrets and the consequences of keeping these secrets from the light of day, unacknowledged and unresolved, can destroy our lives Ms Itani s lyrical prose and total understanding of human nature is nothing short of remarkable Her prose is spare and devastatingly descriptive The story unfolds through Kenan s memories of the war as a constant backdrop This is another worthy contender as a shortlisted novel for the Giller Prize This novel grows out of, but is not a sequel to Itani s award winning novel Deafening 2003 That novel, set at the beginning of World War 1, told the story of Grania O Neil, who lost her hearing after a bout of scarlet fever when she was five and her new husband, who survived the horrors of the war on the Belgium front It explored themes of love, identity and the resilience required to face the challenge of devastating loss This book explores similar themes and returns to the small Ontario This novel grows out of, but is not a sequel to Itani s award winning novel Deafening 2003 That novel, set at the beginning of World War 1, told the story of Grania O Neil, who lost her hearing after a bout of scarlet fever when she was five and her new husband, who survived the horrors of the war on the Belgium front It explored themes of love, identity and the resilience required to face the challenge of devastating loss This book explores similar themes and returns to the small Ontario town of Deseronto located between Kingston and Belleville, pulling characters from Deafening to begin a new narrative The stories of Tress and Kenan Oak and Maggie O Neill and her husband Am form the core of the book.It is 1919, and people in this small town are still struggling to make a life after they lost sons, brothers and husbands on the battlefields Many who returned from the war were damaged physically and mentally by events overseas Kenan Oak is one of those men, the husband of Grania s sister Tress In 1914 at the age of twenty, he volunteered to go to war and returned from France with devastating injuries Wounded by shrapnel, he has one left arm that hangs uselessly by his side and from which he has no feeling and only one eye he can see from His face is a mess of scars Since his return, Keenan has remained isolated in his home, never venturing out and letting only his adoptive father, his wife Tress and Tress s Aunt Maggie and Uncle Am to see him He has chosen to stay in his house until he is ready to leave His condition is such, that no one pushes him Kenan and his wife are struggling to reestablish their married life, but there is little conversation between them Tress desperately wants to bring him back from the darkness that hangs over him, trying to be patient and give him time to heal But she is frustrated and impatient with his progress She is trying to accept what he has become and what she has become in response, but her spirit is flagging as are her efforts The couple would desperately like to have a child, but so far their attempts to conceive have failed and there is no explanation for it Itani describes Kenan s shell shock, a condition today known as PTSD, with its never ending flashbacks, hallucinations, depression and the anxiety he experiences as he sits day after day watching activity on the Bay of Quinte He is entertained by the water traffic, watching the fishermen, the pleasure craft, the row boats and the canoes As it becomes colder and he watches the annual resurrection of the skating rink, he begins to reminisce about his time skating as a boy The rink is one familiar thing that has not been affected by the war and becomes a key to his reawakening.Kenan receives a letter from Hugh one of his fellow soldiers from P.E.I who was with him in the trenches Hugh is recovering in a sanatorium and suggests they reconnect when he completes his treatment from tuberculosis Like Kenan he is isolated, forced to rest in bed to recover from his illness The two exchange stories about the random carnage on the battlefields and in the trenches where there was no logical explanation for who walked away, who returned home and who just vanished into the landscape Another story unfolds parallel to that of Kenan and Tress It is the story of her Aunt Maggie and Uncle Am whose relationship is struggling A tragedy in their early married life marked them both Undone by their grief, they agreed to bury it with their past life on the farm and move to the city to begin a new life But that secret kept hidden for so many years has left something behind It has become a festering wound that has created a rift in their relationship and continues to grow wider and deeper with each passing year, slowly chipping away at their sense of togetherness and driving them apart There remains little connection between them They cannot even enjoy a comfortable silence, instead the quiet is fraught with a hovering tension Am desperately wants to talk to Maggie about the past He realizes now that it was a mistake to live with a sorrow pushed down and hidden instead of living with it, talking about it and trying to make things better At one time, their vow to secrecy had helped keep them together, now it is driving them apart But Am remains silent and spends most of his time in the clock tower above their tiny apartment, keeping busy.Maggie dreamed of a singing career but has had to be content with participating in the church choir She has always had an intense connection to music which made her happy When the new choir director Lukas Sebastian, a voice teacher with a quiet passion for music arrives from Europe to take the position of choir director, her love of music is once again awakened Lukas challenges her to sing a solo for the Xmas concert and although it scares her, it also stirs her long buried need for a personal connection in a life that has been devoid of emotional feeling for many years Her musical performance becomes a cathartic beginning that releases a hurt that has been locked away and begins a chain of events that both frees and devastates her A sub plot involving Kenan s birth and adoption by a quiet, taciturn welder begins with a photo his adoptive father brings him and gives Kenan the courage to ask about his birth mother That leads to questions that have puzzled him and answers he would never have believed possible.While Itani s novel Deafening brought readers face to face with violent scenes from the battlefields, this novel dealswith the difficulties soldiers faced when they returned home to their families Itani explores the debilitating physical injuries these men suffered with the equally painful mental images they carried in their memories The character of Kenan and his friend Hugh beautifully illustrate different aspects of this theme Hugh has little outward signs of his experience but his mind is locked with battlefield images Kenan, on the other hand is so physically disfigured he has trouble reconnecting with the life he once knew, his injuries the outward sign of a scarred and wounded soul Itani shows how Kenan finally makes a breakthrough to establishing a new life when after a year of confinement, he takes his first tentative steps on the skating rink that was always a source of enjoyment for him before the war He does so under cover of dark, taking the first steps on his journey to connect once again with his community and practicing for the day he will be able to skate in daylight It is difficult to read how he painfully laces up his skates with one hand, a passage beautifully and movingly described by Itani It is a grim reminder of the cost of his lost limb The landscape is an important part of the narrative as Itani portrays life in small town Ontario after the war, filling her narrative with the important details that lend it authenticity to time and place Her meticulous research shows in those small important details such as the recipe for Maggie s soup, her home remedies for illness of the day, the do it yourself Christmas gifts people fashioned from whatever sparse materials were available to the furs and muffs women wore as they skated on the Bay She also includes fragments of articles from the Deseronto Post with its mix of local reports, gossip, advertisements and comments on world events Even Kenan s litany of products available at the local drugstore where he balances the books reflects the times And the characters quirky names, Tress, Oak, Am and Zel must surely come from the past as well This is a story which describes what happens when people do not say the things they want to say, letting time pass, memories fester and leaving loneliness in its wake Keeping secrets was a way of life that reflected the times, when difficult events were hidden and a community colluded to enact a vow of silence over illegitimate children, unfaithful spouses, mental illness and domestic violence, things considered unmentionable The title is a clarion call to tell rather than keep the past hidden, to share stories that really should be told Itani s narrative warns of the dangers of burying them or pushing them away because they always seem to find a way to haunt those who would not face them, appearing at a later time in their lives This is a well written story with beautiful understated language However I found the pacing difficult The narrative was bookended by a very slow start and an abrupt conclusion with secrets revealed on New Year s Eve and coming before readers are ready for them One of those secrets many probably expected while two others are not There are so many unanswered questions with the sad and unsettling ending and so muchcould have been explored before things were brought to a conclusion, with a marriage forever damaged and an unexpected and life changing gift arriving and thankfully received This novel was short listed for the prestigious Giller prize in 2014, a notable achievement What a lovely story Quiet and unassuming and simply lovely. 3.5 review to follow. (READ E-PUB) » Tell è The bestselling author of the award winning international sensation Deafening returns to the period following the First World War with a tour de force an extraordinary novel of secrets withheld and secrets revealedIn , only months after the end of the Great War, the men and women of Deseronto struggle to recover from wounds of the past, both visible and hidden Kenan, a young soldier who has returned from the war damaged and disfigured, confines himself to his small house on the Bay of Quinte, wandering outside only under the cover of night His wife, Tress, attempting to adjust to the trauma that overwhelms her husband and which has changed their marriage, seeks advice from her Aunt Maggie Maggie, along with her husband, Am, who cares for the town clock tower, have their own sorrows, which lie unacknowledged between them Maggie finds joy in her friendship with a local widow and in the Choral Society started by Lukas, a Music Director who has moved to the town from an unknown place in war torn Europe While rehearsing and performing, Maggie rediscovers a part of herself that she had long set aside As the decade draws to a close and the lives of these beautifully drawn characters become entwined, each of them must decide what to share and what to hide, and how their actions will lead them into the futureWith the narrative power and writerly grace for which she is celebrated, Frances Itani has crafted a deeply moving, emotionally rich story about the burdens of the past She shows us how, ultimately, the very secrets we bury to protect ourselves can also be the cause of our undoing Tell is stunning achievement g Loved Deafening and this is just as wonderful.