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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Hardcover – 27 Oct 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (27 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224093452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224093453
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.5 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (321 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,889 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

Review

"Unforgettable… It’s the best book I have ever read about the cost of growing up." (Daisy Goodwin Sunday Times)

"A searingly felt and expressed autobiography…Funny and profoundly hopeful – a tale of survival" (Kate Hamer Metro)

"The prose is breathtaking: witty, biblical, chatty and vigorous all at once. She defines the pursuit of happiness not as being content (which is "fleeting" and "a bit bovine"), but as the impulse to "swim upstream", the search for a meaningful life. This breathless, powerful book is that search" (Emily Strokes Financial Times)

"Vivid, unpredictable, and sometimes mind-rattling memoir... This book... which had been funny enough to make me laugh out loud more times than is advisable on the No 12 bus - turns into something raw and unnerving." (Julie Myerson The Observer)

"This is certainly the most moving book of Winterson's I have ever read... but it wriggles with humour... At one point I was crying so much I had tears in my ears. There is much here that is impressive, but what I find most unusual about it is the way it deepens one's sympathy, for everyone involved." (Zoe Williams The Guardian)

Book Description

The shocking, heart-breaking - and often very funny - true story behind Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

244 of 250 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER on 27 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Although one should never buy a book for its cover, I must admit that I was drawn to this book by the photograph on the front and by the title: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?' Jeanette Winterson chose this title because it was her adoptive mother's response to the news that Winterson was gay - so the title might just as easily have been: `Why me? What have I done to deserve a daughter like you?' Speculation aside, I must say that whatever the title, I am glad that the author decided to write this memoir.

In 1985 Winterson published her first novel: `Oranges are not the only Fruit' and this novel was acknowledged to be partly autobiographical. It tells the story of a girl who was adopted in her infancy by Pentecostal parents. When I read `Oranges' years ago and found out that it was partly based on fact, I thought the worst bits were most probably the fiction parts- not so. Winterson's book tells us that her childhood wasn't quite as that depicted in `Oranges' - it was worse, and that she found it necessary to invent kind people like Testifying Elsie. She writes: "There was no Elsie. There was no one like Elsie. Things were much lonelier than that".

This new book is full of wonderful stories, some funny, some very sad, some that must have been painful to write about. For the reader it may sound amusing to hear of Mrs Winterson striding past Woolworth's shouting "A Den of Vice"; past Marks and Spencer announcing that "The Jews killed Christ"; or marching past the funeral parlour and the pie shop saying "They share an oven" - but Winterson must have had very mixed feelings at the time. She goes on to tell us how Mrs Winterson was not a welcoming woman: "If anyone knocked at the door she ran down the lobby and shoved a poker through the letter box".
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Sellers on 1 Dec. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jeanette Winterson's narrative - part-memoir, part-reflection on the multiple lives we lead - is a fascinating tour through the projections of a complex mind. She talks repeatedly about the non-linearity of our lives, about the illusion of time and our multi-directional movement through it: how remembered experiences are as real to us now (realer?) as they were when we first had them. What I feel she's doing is setting herself up as the ultimate unreliable narrator. She isn't out to con her readers, or herself; simply, she's acknowledging life's ever shifting pattern and the impossibility of pinning down people or places, or the past (and present) itself.

What I'm saying is, don't read this as autobiography. Read it as another layer of stories, inspired by events, but aware of the stories behind it, and those still to come.

It's funny and raw. Outstanding moments for me included the dog biscuit factory, the time she took her pal Vicky home to Accrington for Christmas - Vicky's first encounter with End Time!!! - and the description of how Winterson tried to kill herself.

I loved it. I think JW would be the most amazing dinner guest!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brida TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
I read ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT years ago - probably ten years ago, when I was studying at university. Reading a book as a text for a course can go either of two ways; you can either really get into it, loving the process of studying all elements of it; or you can come to loathe it, studying it because you have to and so maybe not connecting to the personal aspect of the work. I remember 'enjoying' it, although it was never regarded as one of my favourites. However, embarrassingly, I cannot remember a great deal about what happened; just a vague idea that it was semi-autobiographical and involved the story of a young girl who is adopted into a very religious family. WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL, is brought to us as the 'twin' to ORANGES.

In some ways, my first problem (if that's the right word) with WHY BE HAPPY was that I could not recollect what happened in ORANGES. I wasn't sure if I was missing out on anything, having read ORANGES so long ago. But, bizarrely, I also felt at times that I was perhaps going over ground that was already covered by ORANGES. Quite a juxtaposition. Finally, I found myself reading WHY BE HAPPY with almost a running commentary to myself, reminding me that this one is the memoir so it didn't matter, in some ways, what came before.

Overall, I did enjoy WHY BE HAPPY. Other reviewers have commented that the amount of introspection was off-putting to them. Personally, I did not find this a problem. My idea of a memoir is that there should be introspection. In the case of WHY BE HAPPY, the introspection here enables us as a reader to understand why Winterson has the writing style that she does.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By B. A. V. MIDDLEMAST-NEAL on 20 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I am a recent convert to Jeanette Winterson, having seen her interviewed for the first time a year or so ago, and been intrigued.

This is the 4th of her books that I have read and is my favourite to date. She has a way of using words that makes prose sing like poetry. Each sentence is exquisitely pared down and no word is left to chance; each is chosen specifically and carefully for its effect.

She was appallingly uncared for and unloved as a child growing up in the house of the awesome Mrs Winterson (her father is all but absent throughout her formative years, although he shares the house with them). Her mistreatment is dealt with in a cool and objective detachment which belies her rage and fear of rejection.

This is a disturbing and beautiful memoir which brims with hope and love. Read it.
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