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Customer Review

249 of 256 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, 27 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (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". Let's hope no one was looking through it at the time.

Winterson found refuge in the public library where she devoured books that she was unable to read openly at home; if she wasn't reading at the library, she would sit in the outside lavatory, or on the front step where she often found herself locked out overnight. When Mrs Winterson finds Jeanette's hidden cache of paperbacks, she burns them in the backyard. "F*** it" thinks Winterson, "I can write my own" - and the rest, up to a certain extent, is history. Winterson does well enough academically to get into Oxford, she gets her first book published and goes on to have a successful literary career. However that is not all. This memoir relates how Winterson falls in love with women, how her adoptive mother reacts to the knowledge that her daughter, instead of becoming a missionary, has become a lesbian and has paved her way to hell. We learn about Winterson's search for love and of her search for her birth mother and we learn a lot more in this honest, fierce, poignant and ultimately uplifting memoir. Wonderful.

5 Stars.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Dec 2011 06:24:54 GMT
M. A. Bacon says:
nice review but I have stopped reading it as too much information! ... eg would have ruined the book for me.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2011 12:37:14 GMT
Queen Bee says:
I agree M A Bacon - why do people have to precis books in their reviews?

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2011 19:18:09 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Dec 2011 21:58:24 GMT
Susie B says:
Hello M.A.Bacon and Queen Bee.
I have read your comments and would like to say that I am sorry if you feel I have included too much information in my review. When writing reviews, I am always careful not to include `spoilers' and I also usually try not to reveal more information than is already on the book's cover or in the first chapter or two; I then add my opinion of the book. In my review of `Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?' I have included information that was readily available from the cover of the book and from other sources; I then added my own comments, my thoughts and opinion. Jeanette Winterson's life story has been well publicised and she has promoted this book herself on TV, on the radio and in the newspapers. However, if I have spoilt the book for you in any way, I am extremely sorry. Regards. Susie.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Jan 2012 11:37:20 GMT
Mrs Book Pig says:
Whereas I found your review so well written I bought the book.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jan 2012 21:15:03 GMT
Susie B says:
Thank you for your comments Mrs Moy - I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. Best wishes. Susie B.

Posted on 10 Feb 2012 22:10:57 GMT
Polly Rocket says:
read reviews & am now going to buy as well....so ditto Mrs A. Moy

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2012 23:55:24 GMT
Susie B says:
Thank you Polly - I sincerely hope you enjoy the book too.

Posted on 26 Feb 2012 16:38:02 GMT
j and s says:
Agree totally with the first review -by Susie B. Coming from a Lancs.town approx 12 miles from Accrington it made the biography even more interesting.

Posted on 3 Jun 2012 07:33:42 BDT
john says:
Great. !

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jul 2012 12:26:46 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 11 Jul 2012 06:23:48 BDT]
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