This novel is a sort-of sequel to Itani’s Deafening, which I didn’t read though I heard a lot about it. It’s not really a sequel, in the sense that Tell includes some of the same characters, but you don’t have to have read Deafening to appreciate Tell. And I did appreciate it, but I didn’t find it as absorbing as I had hoped, and it’s hard to put my finger on why. It’s the sort of book I should love, because it includes so many of the things that interested me, and it is beautifully written.
Tell is set in a small Ontario town in the aftermath of the first world war. It focuses on a young war vet who has been left scarred both internally and externally by his war experiences, as well as several of the people around him. It’s exactly the kind of quiet, character-driven story I usually enjoy, and it is beautifully written, but it annoyed me that it took quite awhile for anything to happen, and when it did, the most interesting part of the story occurred off-stage, as it were, to be picked up on later in an epilogue. I would never discourage anyone from reading Tell, because it is a very well-written book, but it didn’t grip me as much as I’d hoped it would.