Tag Archives: Jeanette Winterson

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 …

 In 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

Oranges are not the only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson


 While reading this novel I got the feeling that I’ve read it before, but I couldn’t remember what happened so I kept going.

This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God’s elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts. At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves. Innovative, punchy and tender, “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” is a few days ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.

This is a beautifully written story – I do like first person narratives – the characters are fabulous. What an amazing first novel. In amongst the narrative are fairy tale vignettes about the search for the holy grail and a girl Winnet escaping from a wizard trying to find the magic city. These stories within a story highlight Jeanette’s mental state.

This is a quick read and well worth the effort. I’ll definitely be looking for more of her works.



There are even SparkNotes


Leave a Comment

Filed under Recommended, Serious