Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal – Jeanette Winterson

I saw Jennifer Byrne interview Jeanette Winterson about this book and I was keen to read it.

Here is the synopsis …

┬áIn 1985 Jeanette Winterson’s first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published. It tells the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents. The girl is supposed to grow up and be a missionary. Instead she falls in love with a woman. Disaster. Written when Jeanette was only twenty-five, her novel went on to win the Whitbread First Novel award, become an international bestseller and inspire an award-winning BBC television adaptation. Oranges was semi-autobiographical. Mrs Winterson, a thwarted giantess, loomed over that novel and its author’s life. When Jeanette finally left her home, at sixteen, because she was in love with a woman, Mrs Winterson asked her: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? This book is the story of a life’s work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a tyrant in place of a mother, who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the duster drawer, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in an northern industrial town now changed beyond recognition, part of a community now vanished; about the Universe as a Cosmic Dustbin. It is the story of how the painful past Jeanette Winterson thought she had written over and repainted returned to haunt her later life, and sent her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her real mother. It is also a book about other people’s stories, showing how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life-raft which supports us when we are sinking. Funny, acute, fierce and celebratory, this is a tough-minded search for belonging, for love, an identity, a home, and a mother.

This is a touching story full of sadness, abuse and thwarted passion, but told with a light, positive touch. I even had some sympathy for Mrs Winterson (who is a complete monster). It is a story about learning to be loved, finding one’s place in the world, and coming to terms with adoption (ultimately realising that her life is probably better than it would have been if she hadn’t been adopted.

I think this book will lead me back to Winterson’s novels.

More reviews …





Leave a Comment

Filed under Memoir, Recommended

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *