Author: Frances Itani

Published: 2003

Genre: Fiction

About Deafening: The story of a deaf woman and her hearing husband during World War I.

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Grania lives in Deseronto, Ontario in the early 1900s, next door to the family-owned hotel. A severe case of scarlet fever at age five left her profoundly deaf. Her mother refuses to accept the diagnosis as final, her grandmother, Mamo, teaches her how to cope, and her older sister, Tress, provides a lifeline to the hearing world.

Let's get the things I didn't like about the book out of the way. The first half was slow. There were interesting bits scattered throughout and it made me think but it didn't make me rush to pick it up at the end of the day.

I didn't like the writing style and it didn't flow well, again only in the first part of the book.

The romance between Grania and Jim was glossed over. We saw their initial meeting and then, suddenly, they'd been together for eight months and were on the verge of marrying. And after they were married, every conversation between Grania and Jim was about sound. Because of these things, there wasn't much depth to their relationship.

And then Jim left for the war and everything changed. It was almost like reading two separate books. The pace improved, the writing smoothed out, and I was eager to get back to it at the end of the day.

I liked the contrast between Grania's silent world and Jim's world of unending noise. I liked that the book showed some of the hardships suffered by those on the homefront. Itani also offered some local history, such as the fire that nearly destroyed Deseronto in 1896, and the effects of the Spanish flu pandemic.

What the book did best however, and the most important reason to read it, was to present some of the challenges faced by deaf people. I found myself giving serious thought to how we learn language, both spoken and written, and Grania often pointed out things that hearing people need to be aware of when communicating with (and around) a deaf person.

I don't know if Itani is going to write a sequel to Deafening but if she did, I would read it.

Reviewed by Lynn Bornath.

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More Reviews

‘A romance that war cannot silence.’ Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor, August 2003.
“There's not a single false gesture in Frances Itani's Deafening.
Mary Whipple,, 21 October 2003.
“Author Itani deals with big themes in this novel, [...] but she develops these themes in new ways...”
‘Silence resounds in 'Deafening'.’ Jessica Slater, Rocky Mountain News, 6 November 2003.
“...tells an intimate tale with clarity and sensitivity.”
‘From Margin to Main Character.’ Laura Cardiff, The Dominion, 1 December 2003.
“In its content, on the other hand, Deafening fills a void many of us probably never noticed existed.”
The Little Professor, 4 February 2005.
Deafening doesn't altogether manage to carve out its own narrative turf.”
April, Wednesday Book Club, 16 December 2009
“Francis Itani, through Grania, enlightened me as to language and sound.”
Courtney, Once Upon a Bookshelf, 19 January 2010
“What an utterly beautiful book!”
‘The sounds of silence.’ Allison Block, BookPage.
“After a summer of slick, steamy thrillers, Canadian writer Frances Itani's first novel is the literary equivalent of a cool autumn breeze.”


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Added 17 December 2005.
Updated 25 August 2013.