Canada Reads·Canadian


Set on the eve of the Great War, Frances Itani's novel tells the story of a young deaf woman who falls in love with a man who can hear.

Frances Itani

Deaf since she was five years old, Grania has learned that watching is not always enough to survive in the world of the hearing. She has learned that words can often be impossible to see, their shape disappearing into a place where she cannot decipher their skittery ways. Sent to the Ontario School for the Deaf in Belleville, Grania must learn to live away from her loving family, lonely for the company of her sister and the secret language they shared. When Grania falls in love with Jim, a young hearing man from the east coast, her life seems complete, but the First World War soon tears them apart and sweeps him into the worst of experiences — trench warfare. At the western front, Jim is tested to his limit as he and his buddy Irish — both stretcher bearers — retrieve the shattered bodies of their comrades. (From HarperCollins Canada)

Deafening was a contender for Canada Reads 2006, when it was defended by Maureen McTeer.

Read an excerpt | Author interviews

From the book

"Go to my room." Mamo is pointing to the floor above. "Bring the package on my bureau."

Grania watches her grandmother's lips. She understands, pushes aside the heavy tapestry curtain that keeps the draught from blowing up the stairs, and runs up to the landing. She pauses long enough to glance through the only window in the house that is shaped like a porthole, even though it's at the back of the house and looks over land, not water. She peers down into the backyard, sees the leaning fence, the paddock, and over to the right, the drive sheds behind Father's hotel. Far to the left, over the top of the houses on Mill Street, she can see a rectangle of field that stretches in the opposite direction, towards the western edge of town. A forked tree casts a long double shadow that has begun its corner-to-corner afternoon slide across the field. Remembering her errand, Grania pulls back, runs to Mamo's room, finds the package tied up in a square of blue cloth and carries it, wrapped, to the parlour.

From Deafening by Frances Itani ©2003. Published by HarperCollins Canada.

Author interviews

Frances Itani on "Tell"