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Written on the Body (Vintage International) Paperback – Feb 1994


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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books USA; Reprint edition (Feb. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679744479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679744474
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,489,188 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

Written on The Body is a tender dissection of erotic love. The prose is like a poem, lush with wit and imagery, but behind the luxuriant relish of the words, there is a scalpel-sharp cut of emotions. Love and longing are the wounds through which Winterson's imagery flows. The novel begins with regret: "Why is the measure of love loss? It hasn't rained in three months ... The grapes have withered on the vine." The narrator is also suffering from a heart-stricken drought. She is grieving for the loss of her true love, Louise.

Louise has flowing Pre-Raphaelite hair, and a body besieged by leukaemia, her cells waging war: "here they come, hurtling through the bloodstream trying to pick a fight." But Louise is not dead, merely abandoned by the narrator with the best of intentions. As the lament continues, striking in its beauty and dazzling inventiveness, more of the love story is revealed. The narrator has been a female Lothario, falling in love, and out again, swaggering like Mercutio. But then she meets Louise, married to Elgin--"very eminent, very dull, very rich"--and is hopelessly, helplessly smitten: "I didn't only want Louise's flesh, I wanted her bones, her blood, her tissues, the sinews that bound her together." Elgin persuades her to leave for the good of Louise's health, and all is undone.

Winterson does not shy away from grief, or joy. She has acutely described how love can transform a life, but also destroy it too. But, for Winterson, where there is love there is hope: "I stretch out my hand and reach the corners of the world ... I don't know if this is a happy ending but here we are let loose in open fields." Eithne Farry --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Winterson's novels are about exploding our complacent notions of the real, breaking down received ideas of gender, time and space... John Donne wrote, "Love...makes one little room, as everywhere." Winterson's novel arrives at a similar affirmation" (Time Out)

"An ambitious work, at once a love story and a philosophical meditation on the body...the result is a work that is consistently revelatory about the phenomenon of love" (New York Times Book Review)

"This book is a deep sensual plunge, a worship of the body, inside and out" (Guardian) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Greenleaf on 29 July 2011
Format: Paperback
Written on the Body is the fourth book by Jeannette Winterson. It is written in first person by a narrator whose name, gender and age are never revealed to us. The narrator is in love with a woman called Louise who is married to a cancer researcher, and the book is about the narrator's love and loss of Louise, and their story.

When she falls prey to cancer herself, the narrator chooses to forsake their love in favour of Louise's life, as they believe that only her husband can save her. Since they have been separated however the narrator finds it too much to bear and yearns to have Louise back in her life- however she has since moved away and there is no way of finding her or even knowing whether or not she is still alive. The story is therefore based around the couple's past and the narrator's reflections on it.

It's hard to read this book without imagining a gender for the narrator, particularly as s/he has such a strong 'voice'. I found it really interesting to have this challenge while reading; Winterson has written this book in such a way that forces the reader out of their expectations about gender stereotypes.

The genre of this book is also hard to tie down. It is clearly a love story and has elements of romance, but it is also about loss and grief, and the pleasure and the pain of being in love.

The language use in Written on the Body is very unique: Winterson uses incredibly lyrical, beautiful phrases to tell her story. This is a very original work, and a powerful love story told by a strong literary voice. I'm not sure it's for everyone, but I found it fascinating, provoking, and also very touching. It is nothing like Winterson's other works, so I recommend approaching it with an open mind to really understand what the book is about.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Mar. 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this years ago knowing nothing about Jeanette Winterson and devoured it in one session. As a lesbian I identified the narrator as female and one I could really relate to. I have reread the book a number of times and find it multilayered and as beautiful as good poetry, the fact that so few things are spelt out and so much is hinted at appealed to me rather than the reverse. It is the only book of hers I love perhaps because of those things, perhaps because despite the fact she chooses not to be straightforward in style, I find so many of the things she writes about love and the experience of it deeply accurate. People are not simple and nor are lives, I found in her writing revelations on human nature that touched me, made me think hard, and ultimately changed some ignorances I had about myself forever. It is a passionate book about a passionate love and to my mind one of the most successfully done, especially in the lesbian field of literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Queen of Sheba on 18 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback
This is no ordinary book. Jeanette Winterson has such an incredible mastery of the English language that it takes your breath away, and as an aspiring writer it makes me feel that I should throw the towel in right now and stop being such a twat!

The story revolves around the recollections of an ultimately tragic love affair with a woman called Louise. The narrator recounts the unfolding events and how they have compared with those of previous lovers. The narrative is supported by vivid descriptions and musings on the nature of love and relationships (as well as a hundred other things), all deftly condensed into surprisingly few words. There is for example a discussion on the fortunes and misfortunes of marriage, and another on reasons why people fall out of love.

You need an open, tolerant mind to read the book, the explicit sex and colourful language are uncompromising. And although the narrator is ungendered it soon becomes obvious that he/she is a woman; at one point "she" recalls dancing with a previous girlfriend "sealed like a pair of 50s homosexuals", and later on another aquaintance called Gail instinctively assumes that the narrator's lover would be a man.

The main thrust of the book is to convey the feelings and self-examination that come from being totally consumed with love for another person, and there are evocative passages full of tenderness and longing. The book's title is contained in one such passage. Another memorable one is "Louise let me sail with you over these spirited waves. I have the hope of a saint in a coracle." There are also some moments of almost accidental hilarity, "I had a girlfriend once who could only achieve orgasm between the hours of two and five o'clock".
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 April 2000
Format: Paperback
This is absolutely my favourite book ever. I've read it 100 times, and I always find something new there. The truths Winterson writes of love have the power to make me break down in tears, and I turn to this book again and again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By HT on 23 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
I actually enjoyed this book but I felt that the writer was incredibly self-indulgent and a little pretentious, despite some fabulous imagery in places. The idea was very good and the ambiguity led to some interesting reading however it all felt a little contrived and many of the passages very over-worked.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Louise leaves her husband but when she finds she has cancer, she leaves her new lover too. Written on the Body is a journey of self-discovery made through the metaphors of desire and disease.

A period of celibacy: It hasn't rained for three months. The trees are prospecting underground, sending reserves of roots into the dry ground, roots like razors to open any artery water-fat; Despair as clock approaches bedtime

A visit to the STI clinic: like ante-chamber of Judgement Day - out of way of deserving patients

An avoidance of romance: escape coca and hot water bottles

Satiated: Cheeks like gerbils because mouth was full of Louise; Wet with sex and sweat' Smells of my lover's body still strong in my nostrils which reminds me of the Song of Songs; Three days without washing and she is well-hung and high; the pads of your fingers have become printing blocks, you tap a message on to my skin

Men having affairs are easy to spot - new underwear, cologne

I wonder how promiscuous one-night-stands affects the body - the only other time we give our bodies into the hands of strangers is when we die and go to the undertakers

For many of us, love is something inside our heads and/or hearts.
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