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The Passion (Contemporary classics) [Paperback]

Jeanette Winterson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
Price: 7.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

3 Oct 1996 Contemporary classics

Henri had a passion for Napoleon and Napoleon had a passion for chicken. From Boulogne to Moscow Henri butchered for his Emperor and never killed a single man.

Meanwhile, in Venice, the city of chance and disguises, Villanelle was born with the webbed feet of her boatman father - but in the casinos she gambled her heart and lost.

As the soldier-chef's love for Napoleon turns to hate he finds the Venetian beauty, and together they flee to the canals of darkness.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (3 Oct 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099734419
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099734413
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester and read English at Oxford, during which time she wrote her first novel, the Whitbread award winning Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. Tanglewreck, Jeanette's first novel for children, was published to great critical acclaim in 2006. In the same year she was awarded an OBE for services to literature.

Product Description

Amazon Review

In 1985 Jeanette Winterson won the Whitbread Award for best first fiction for the semi-autobiographical Oranges are not the Only Fruit, an often wry exploration of lesbian possibility bumping up against evangelical fanaticism. She was 25. Two years later, The Passion, her third novel, appeared, the fantastical tale of Henri--Napoleon's cook--and Villanelle, a Venetian gondolier's daughter who has webbed feet (previously an all-male attribute), works as a croupier, picks pockets, cross-dresses and literally loses her heart to a beautiful woman. Written in a lyrical and jolting combination of fairy-tale diction and rhythm and the staccato, the book would be a risky proposition in lesser hands. Winterson has said that she wanted to look at people's need to worship and examine what happens to young men in militaristic societies. The question was, how to do so without being polemical and didactic? Only she could have come up with such an exquisite answer. In the end, Henri, incarcerated on an island of madmen, becomes aware that his passion, "even though she could never return it, showed me the difference between inventing a lover and falling in love. The one is about you, the other about someone else."


"It's a fantasy, a vivid dream... inventive and brilliant" (Guardian)

"As moving and funny as it is skilful, and reflects the author's formiddable appetite for life" (Sunday Times)

"A book of great imaginative audacity and assurance...brilliantly physical (and funny) detail" (Times Literary Supplement)

"Its concentrated, beautifully detailed prose recalls the diction of fairy tales; its plot incorporates their magic, their shrewd wit and brutality...a deeply imagined and beautiful book, often arrestingly so" (New York Times)

"Lyrical prose penetrates to the heart of things... She knows how to speak plain truth and at the same time satisfy our longing for the fabulous. She's telling you stories. Trust her" (Washington Post)

"An explosively imaginative writer" (London Free Press)

"A historical novel quite different from any other...written with a living passion, an eyewitness immediacy... Winterson is a master of her material, a writer in whom great talent deeply abides" (Vanity Fair)

"Recalls Garcia Marquez... Magical touches dance like highlights over the brilliance of this fairy tale about passion, gambling, madness, and androgynous ecstasy" (Edmund White)

"The overwhelming impression of her work is one of remarkable self-confidence, and she evidently thrives on risk... As good as Poe: it dares you to laugh and stares you down" (New York Review of Books)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winterson convention anyone? 10 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this again and I recognise where I go wrong with Winterson. I read her, like I would read an Agatha Christie, but these books demand more. I'm not a clever boy but it's funny I spent more time struggling with this than I would reading a 500 page book. It's the same as climbing a mountain and looking back at the view and I felt different having read it. This, by the way, in my opinion, is how Winterson is a genius. It's one thing enjoying a story and being distracted but it's quite different when a book changes the way you feel. She is, in short, an extrodinary writer.

I think before I sound really stupid, I should just list why this book needs to be read.
- Language here has a texture, like a silk or something.
- It's an amazing story
- "It was Napoleon who had such a passion for chicken that he kept his chefs working round the clock," is the best opening line of a book ever.
- The twist at the end, which I think is saying the absence of freedom can be chosen.
- Etc. Etc.

Really buy it. The Passion is a demanding mistress but a rewarding one.

Okay so now I'm a Winterson fan. I'll stop now.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the pain and pleasure of love 11 Nov 2000
By A Customer
Love. When you mean it, when you really feel overwhelmed by someone there is pain as well as plasure. That is one aspect of this brilliant book. How faith in one human being can lead thousands to war, how nine days and nights can be the most important of your life. The book looks at how one person can completly alter your life and way of thinking. How love for another can make you look at yourself and the world differently. When love isn't returned it can lead to genuine pain and grief, but when returned the notion of happily ever after and a wonderful world seem within reason. Jeanette Winterson has written a beautiful book. It has a strong fantasy element but there is truth on every page, and we will all recognise feelings and fears we ourselves have experienced though we may never have been in war or walked on water. Reading a book like this makes you feel less lonely, and I would recommend it to anyone. Nicola.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully crooked story 21 Aug 2013
Oh what a glorious book. It is set during Napoleon's futile attempt to invade England in 1805 and the catastrophic march into Russia in 1812. Winterson paints a historical scene in the same way Van Gogh painted the world around him. It's like stepping into The Starry Night where all of nature is illustrated to us through the prism of the artists mind. Jeanette Winterson pulls us through the looking glass to a time that happened and did not happen.

The story is in four parts. The first protagonist is Henri, a man who leaves home to fight for Napoleon. Driven by intense loyalty, Winterson illustrates the first of many shapes that passion can be made of. We never see much of Napoleon just learn of his appetite for chicken through Henri being recruited as an army cook. Henri's love for Napoleon and his vision is his talisman against the harsh conditions, the brutality and the dead around him.

We then meet Villanelle, daughter of a Venetian boatman, and watch her roam the decadent chaotic city of Venice. This part of the story is more sensual and mysterious as she explores the casinos and dresses like a man and falls in love with a married lady. It felt so liberating to read about somebody who was such a strong heroine and freely loved life.

Despite being technically a historical novel this book felt extremely contemporary for me in the best way. Winterson weaves love, tragedy, idealism and gender into a macabre and beautiful tale of history. Sometimes when you read a book, the story plays out in your head so vivid you can see it like you've walked into the author's dream. Winterson writes so well that I can still see the world she created when I close my eyes.

This is the third book I have read by Jeanette Winterson and my favourite so far.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars my fave book to re-read each year 21 Aug 2013
By auntieP
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I re-read this book every year and get great pleasure from remembering and not quite-remembering the amazing story and details packed into it.magical.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Passion? I think so!! 1 Sep 2008
'Bridges join but they also separate.'

'I like the collision between different realities', she says, as she prepares two mugs of Irish tea. 'It's exciting at the level of the imagination, because it allows for an expansion of perspectives. For example, you are walking down a real street and you also in a street in your mind that hardly exists.' ( Winterson)


Winterson's narratives play with the tension between connnection and rupture. She invests in narratives which 'interrupt' their coherence and sequencing through epigrammatic phrasing , thereby exposing the falsity of linearity, and the way that 'history' tries to impose 'grand narratives' which suppress the anomalous and individual.

Hence Winterson narrates The Passion from the persepctive of two 'minor' voices from History: these ordinarily voiceless narrators offer their views of Napoleon and his Russian catastrophes in personal and idiosyncratic registers whcih dismantle the supposedly 'original' Historical truth.

'Villanelle' wears a name which bears witness to her duality; 'villain' and 'elle' , the peasant and the poem. She is a hybrid subject whose adpatability serves to save her life and her heart through the graphic traumas of 'history.'

Henri too embraces both 'masculine' and 'feminine' behaviours opting in the end to preserve the sanctity of his love and heart through the solitude of San Servelo, an island's exile which echoes that of his hero Napoleon .

Do our choices make us mad or sane?

Hybrid narratives abound.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book
One of the most beautiful books ever written. I gave it to a friend as a wedding present, along with Invisible Cities, as he was going to Venice on honeymoon. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Lucy W
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written Winterson
This is so beautifully constructed and written the words just pull you right into the characters and their lives. I wanted to read it again the minute I got to the end. Read more
Published 9 months ago by vizog
4.0 out of 5 stars The Passion
In Jeanette Winterson's book The Passion, step back in time and experience much shock and after-shock caused by wars in parts of Europe. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Alice Wright
3.0 out of 5 stars read it
haven't actually got around to reading this, but the book looks interesting and very pretty on my book shelf hehe
Published 9 months ago by Melissa Holden
4.0 out of 5 stars Not so much an emotion, as a destiny
Between the front and the back of the hardbound book, stitched to the spine, the page waits there suspended like a rope trapeze, its binding threads visible. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Holtman
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointed.
I have read several of Jeanette Winterton's books and was looking forward to this one but found it very hard going and easy to put down . Sorry ! Jeanette.
Published 13 months ago by David Westcott
2.0 out of 5 stars not to my liking.
i did not like this book . couldnot get in to it,gave up after about 1 hour . sorry but not for me.
Published 14 months ago by william
5.0 out of 5 stars assignment reading
love the cover of this book have not read yet will be starting this week but author so far is very poetic and graphic with her writings
Published 16 months ago by Ms. Amanda P. Blondel
5.0 out of 5 stars Love, Death or the Death of Love?
An unusual take on intertwining lives and tangled emotions, brilliant, read this! And weep for the loss endured by the main characters as its totally involving.
Published 17 months ago by shoestar1
4.0 out of 5 stars Good weekend Read
Enjoyed the concept of this book very much. Winterson's writing style appeals very much. Have read Oranges are the only Fruit, this is a completely different read. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mrs Amanda Smith
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