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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
Weight by Jeanette Winterson belongs to "The Canongate Myths" series from whence also came Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus And The Scoundrel Christ and Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, both of which I had already read. Therefore I can say with utter certainty that this novel is far superior to both those works by a country mile.

I have seen Jeanette...
Published 20 months ago by R. A. Davison

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointing
Weight retells the story of how Atlas came to carry the universe on his shoulders, and the temporary relief he received from Heracles, in a retelling of Ancient Greek myths.

The book really jars halfway through when Winterson inserts an auto-biographical note, drawing an explicit connection between Atlas carrying the weight of the universe on his shoulders and...
Published on 2 Dec. 2010 by Jimbo


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 14 July 2013
By 
R. A. Davison (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Weight by Jeanette Winterson belongs to "The Canongate Myths" series from whence also came Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus And The Scoundrel Christ and Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, both of which I had already read. Therefore I can say with utter certainty that this novel is far superior to both those works by a country mile.

I have seen Jeanette Winterson on television twice - once interviewed by Anne Robinson for 'My Life In Books' and then interviewed by Alan Yentob for Imagine. Her Imagine episode was one of the most heartbreaking and moving interviews of an author I have ever seen. I was fascinated by her and also, for a variety of reasons, saw her as a fellow survivor on the road who I deeply identified with.

Therefore, it was to my great shame, though I had wanted to and been prevented from reading 'Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit' as a 12 yr old, that I had not read a single one of her novels. I spied Weight in a charity shop and it was an instabuy not only because it was Jeanette Winterson but because I loved Greek Mythology when I did it first in primary school, then at university.

Weight takes the myth of Atlas and Heracles and retells it in a new and more literary way. At certain points Winterson interjects and speaks about how in many ways, the myth of Atlas is "her myth"- the one bearing most comparison to her own life, and that, too, I found I identified with.

Weight may be rather short but there is utter beauty in its brevity. Some of the one line sentences in this novel are stunning. As prose it is gorgeous, lyrical, emotive, resonating.

There is little I feel I need to say further about this book except this :

It is wonderful. Please read it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I want to tell the story again", 19 Dec. 2009
By 
Sam Woodward (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
"[Atlas] turned his head &, just for a moment he didn't see the universe balanced there on his back. It was himself he was carrying, colossal & weighty, little Atlas desperately holding up the Atlas of the world."

We all know the gist of the story - after failing in his struggle to attain freedom from the Gods, giant Atlas is condemned to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. But what exactly was he struggling for in the first place? Even he is no longer sure - merely that "what began as just cause became just excuse". Then one day, Heracles arrives. He needs the (literally) world-weary Atlas' help to complete one of his legendary tasks, so offers to shoulder his burden for one day. This could be an opportunity for escape - but how can we run away from burdens we place on ourselves; which only exist in our own minds?

Winterson masterfully retells the ancient myth with canny psychological insight into the iconic Gods & legendary characters; the impulsive solipsism of fame-seeker Heracles & Atlas' desire for freedom clashing with his vanity & sense of responsibility. These are combined with Winterson's personal reflections on her own mental burdens & how this story has been `retold' in her own life ("my girlfriend says I have an Atlas complex", she reveals). Thus she breathes fresh life & relevance into a tale often repeated in a manner drier than ancient parchment. She also shows great insight into the purpose of myths - using the incredible to teach us humanly mundane truths about our personal mental landscapes & the drives which affect our species as a whole.

Weight drifts in places but is fabulously written with much to ponder in such a short volume. Winterson admits that she "chose this story above all others because it's a story I'm struggling to end"; she means in her own life but part of me wonders if she struggled to end the story in a way which she herself found satisfactory. She certainly didn't have any concrete solutions to putting down burdens, other than to simply let go of them.

Never has this story been told with such poignancy & relevance. I guess each generation must tell it again & again, in their own way.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointing, 2 Dec. 2010
By 
Weight retells the story of how Atlas came to carry the universe on his shoulders, and the temporary relief he received from Heracles, in a retelling of Ancient Greek myths.

The book really jars halfway through when Winterson inserts an auto-biographical note, drawing an explicit connection between Atlas carrying the weight of the universe on his shoulders and the way that she, and by extension other people, approach problems as they move through life. This rather creates a sledgehammer effect, forcing the reader to consider her explicitly drawn metaphor as one reads the rest of the book. This is not to say that the link is not one worth drawing attention to, it is just rather clumsily inserted. Attention to the metaphor could be better drawn at the end of the book as the 150 pages is not cumbersome enough not to be easily reread if the needed.

That Winsterson chose to do this is rather a shame as the rest of the book is very well written. The dialogue brings a real vibrancy, and Atlas' philosophical musings and general weariness fits in well with the story. Heracles is an entertainingly drawn, and comes across as a sex-pest with no regard for anyone's sexual needs bar his own. Winterson also has fun with the text, which frequently brings a smile to ones face, for example when Heracles, holding the universe, complains about mountains digging into his neck. The appearance of Soviet space doggy Laika towards the end is also touching. Overall, there is enough to make it worth checking out, but prepare yourself for the smack of the sledgehammer!
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1.0 out of 5 stars The heaviest weight I have ever borne was reading this book, 28 Jan. 2015
What a disappointing book. Almost masturbatory in some areas, and I don't just mean the extended bits where Heracles strums his own trumpet - you can actually imagine Winterson writing this and thinking to herself 'oh yeah, that's for the academics, that's the stuff'. Winterson clearly fancies herself up there with the greatest philosophers of all eras, and the texts she produces just don't merit that belief. This book pertains to discuss Atlas' burden as being not a physical burden, but more a psychological one - the twin burdens of choice and fate. Ostensibly an interesting premise, and one that made me eager to read this book - I've always enjoyed the myth of Atlas, and the numerous retellings that muse upon what his true burden really was. I expected to love this book. By Zeus, how wrong I was.

The problem is that this book doesn't answer - or indeed ask - any questions that haven't been asked - and indeed answered - a million times before. An actual exchange from the book between Heracles and Hera reads as follows (slightly paraphrased due to my having blocked this featherlight, tedious tome from my memory):

"How can I change my fate?"
"You have to make your own destiny."

Well, thanks for that insight, Jeanette. I'd never heard that on an episode of Power Rangers before, or in literally every Nicholas Sparks adaptation ever. Honestly, parts of this book read more like a Judy Bloom novel than a serious academic retelling of Atlas - which, OK, this book is not a textbook, but if it attempts to deal with heavy issues (no pun intended) then it should do a better job of it.

Another technique that Winterson often uses is the good old self insert. Sandwiched between the tales of Heracles and Atlas like a piece of forgotten ham is Jeanette Winterson's own life story. I almost skipped these pages. I just didn't want to read yet another groaning, moping account of her own life. We get it, Winterson. We've all read Oranges. It's all very sad, but can you write one book without an aside? Can you construct just one narrative without saying 'oh, by the way, in case you didn't know this about me, this book actually relates very well to my OWN life, and here's why...'? Not all fiction needs to hold a mirror up to the author, and if it does, it doesn't need to shine its reflection right in the reader's eyes like a laser pointer. I'm all for autobiographical authorial intent. Write a book as catharsis. That's fine. Just don't be so damn blatant about it. Subtlety is a fine art, and the brushstrokes here are childish.

Add that to the fact that the version I read was groaning with typing errors and grammatical mistakes (I spotted three on one page at one point, and nearly threw the book out the window) and this book made for one of the most unpleasant hours of my life. I've given it 2 stars for two reasons: firstly, Jeanette Winterson can turn a phrase like no other; and secondly, it was blissfully short. Had it been an extra hundred pages, I doubt I'd have finished it. To be honest, I almost wish I hadn't. I've rarely read a book that's made me feel quite so empty, disappointed and borderline angry as this one. I've felt more fulfilled after reading leaflets on gum disease at the dentist, and at least those didn't pretend to be great works of literature.

This is the third Winterson novel that I've read, after Oranges and Stone Gods, and I can honestly say that I'm going to have to implement a Three Strikes system here. I just can't put myself through it again. Like Heracles himself, I am ~choosing my own destiny~ and relieving myself of the burden of Winterson. God knows, I can't bear another burden like this. It's just too heavy, and yet nowhere near heavy enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "I want to tell the story again", 19 Dec. 2009
By 
Sam Woodward (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles (Myths) (Hardcover)
"[Atlas] turned his head &, just for a moment he didn't see the universe balanced there on his back. It was himself he was carrying, colossal & weighty, little Atlas desperately holding up the Atlas of the world."

We all know the gist of the story - after failing in his struggle to attain freedom from the Gods, the Atlas is condemned to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. But what exactly was he struggling for in the first place? Even he is no longer sure - merely that "what began as just cause became just excuse". Then one day, Heracles arrives. He needs the (literally) world-weary Atlas' help to complete one of his legendary tasks, so offers to shoulder his burden for one day. This could be an opportunity for escape - but how can we run away from burdens we place on ourselves; which only exist in our own minds?

Winterson masterfully retells the ancient myth with canny psychological insight into the iconic Gods & legendary characters; the impulsive solipsism of Heracles & Atlas' desire for freedom clashing with his vanity & sense of responsibility. These are combined with Winterson's personal reflections on her own mental burdens & how this story has been `retold' in her own life ("my girlfriend says I have an Atlas complex", we are told). Thus she breathes fresh life & relevance into a tale often repeated in a manner drier than ancient parchment. She also shows great insight into the purpose of myths - using the incredible to teach us humanly mundane truths about our personal mental landscapes & our species as a whole.

The book drifts in places but is fabulously written with much to ponder in such a short volume. Winterson admits that she "chose this story above all others because it's a story I'm struggling to end"; she means in her own life but part of me wonders if she struggled to end the story in a way which she herself found satisfactory. She certainly didn't have any concrete solutions to putting down burdens, other than to simply let go of them.

Never has this story been told with such poignancy & relevance. I guess each generation must tell it again & again, in their own way.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "I want to tell the story again", 19 Dec. 2009
By 
Sam Woodward (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
"[Atlas] turned his head &, just for a moment he didn't see the universe balanced there on his back. It was himself he was carrying, colossal & weighty, little Atlas desperately holding up the Atlas of the world."

We all know the gist of the story - after failing in his struggle to attain freedom from the Gods, the Atlas is condemned to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. But what exactly was he struggling for in the first place? Even he is no longer sure - merely that "what began as just cause became just excuse". Then one day, Heracles arrives. He needs the (literally) world-weary Atlas' help to complete one of his legendary tasks, so offers to shoulder his burden for one day. This could be an opportunity for escape - but how can we run away from burdens we place on ourselves; which only exist in our own minds?

Winterson masterfully retells the ancient myth with canny psychological insight into the iconic Gods & legendary characters; the impulsive solipsism of Heracles & Atlas' desire for freedom clashing with his vanity & sense of responsibility. These are combined with Winterson's personal reflections on her own mental burdens & how this story has been `retold' in her own life ("my girlfriend says I have an Atlas complex", we are told). Thus she breathes fresh life & relevance into a tale often repeated in a manner drier than ancient parchment. She also shows great insight into the purpose of myths - using the incredible to teach us humanly mundane truths about our personal mental landscapes & our species as a whole.

The book drifts in places but is fabulously written with much to ponder in such a short volume. Winterson admits that she "chose this story above all others because it's a story I'm struggling to end"; she means in her own life but part of me wonders if she struggled to end the story in a way which she herself found satisfactory. She certainly didn't have any concrete solutions to putting down burdens, other than to simply let go of them.

Never has this story been told with such poignancy & relevance. I guess each generation must tell it again & again, in their own way.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A story of a story., 31 May 2008
By 
Steven R. McEvoy "MCWPP" (Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Now on to much weightier matters. Winterson takes a much different approach than Atwood. She tells this tale as herself telling her tale retelling a tale. Confusing? No not really. She begins with herself, tells the story of Heracles ad Atlas and then returns to her own life and lessons learnt.

Unlike the Penelopiad, this book Weight is very dark and brooding and leaves one with a feeling of unease as if we missed something, or even that in reading this book, like Pandora, we have opened a box and cannot now close it and will be forever different. Though we are not sure how.

How does Winterson accomplish this? In this deep brooding book she touches something primal inside. Much as Heracles is awoken and bothered by the question "Why? Why? Why?" this question arises and will not let him go.

So too, this book will awaken questions in your mind and your spirit, and maybe, just maybe, if we are lucky, in this book we will find the questions to lift our weight. If we can learn from it to tell our story we can be freed, and step out from under the burden on our shoulders, as Atlas so desperately desired.

(First published in Imprint 2005-11-05 as `Myth Novels')
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Story about Story, 21 Mar. 2008
By 
Steven R. McEvoy "MCWPP" (Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles (Myths) (Hardcover)
Now on to much weightier matters. Winterson takes a much different approach than Atwood. She tells this tale as herself telling her tale retelling a tale. Confusing? No not really. She begins with herself, tells the story of Heracles ad Atlas and then returns to her own life and lessons learnt.

Unlike the Penelopiad, this book Weight is very dark and brooding and leaves one with a feeling of unease as if we missed something, or even that in reading this book, like Pandora, we have opened a box and cannot now close it and will be forever different. Though we are not sure how.

How does Winterson accomplish this? In this deep brooding book she touches something primal inside. Much as Heracles is awoken and bothered by the question "Why? Why? Why?" this question arises and will not let him go.

So too, this book will awaken questions in your mind and your spirit, and maybe, just maybe, if we are lucky, in this book we will find the questions to lift our weight. If we can learn from it to tell our story we can be freed, and step out from under the burden on our shoulders, as Atlas so desperately desired.

(First published in Imprint 2005-11-05 as `Myth Novels')
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5.0 out of 5 stars Weight, 9 Jan. 2012
By 
Elodie (Swansea Valley, Wales) - See all my reviews
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To be honest, I never used to like Jeanette Winterson much. I found her too cocky by half. However my husband is a huge fan of hers and for my fiftieth birthday presented me with a copy of 'Boating for Beginners'. I read it with fairly low expectations but gradually found myself warming to her themes. In fact, I slowly became a fan myself and started ploughing through my husband's comprehensive collection of her work. 'Weight' in particular blew me away and I would have to agree with Newsday that it is probably 'her best book yet'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, 3 May 2013
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just what i needed for my uni assignment arrived quickly in perfect condition, would highly recommend and would definately use again.
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Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles (Myths)
Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles (Myths) by Jeanette Winterson (Hardcover - 21 Oct. 2005)
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