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Customer Review

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, brutal, honest and sad, 10 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Hardcover)
This autobiographical work covers Jeanette Winterson's childhood up to the age of 16 (when she left home), and then skips to a few years ago when she reconnects with her birth mother. Winterson was adopted by parents who belonged to a small Pentecostalist sect with very strict rules about how life should be lived. Her mother, who believed that books were effectively evil, but read them herself, appears as a woman trapped by her own personality failings and doomed to lead an unhappy life, a life she wants to ensure Jeanette shares. A rebel, Jeanette Winterson suffers frequent beatings and psychological cruelty and finally gets kicked out of home when her lesbianism is confirmed. The author describes her early life with beautiful clarity - it was brutal and yet it helped her to become an author. She hates her mother (and to a degree her father) but cannot help but be influenced by her and, to an extent, sympathises with her. However, it is also clear that she has been unable to escape her either, and Winterson's lack of ability to conduct lasting personal relationships is partially laid at her mother's door. The latter part of the book looks at Winterson deciding to meet her birth mother, including the sickening fear involved in doing so, and learning that she was not the evil woman her mother had portrayed her as being. However, we also learn that despite the warmth of her rediscovered birth mother and "real" family, Winterson cannot engage with them to any depth, although the relationships are a work in progress. In summary, I found this to be a gripping story of the author's severely disfunctional upbringing, an upbringing which spurred her on to succeed as an author but which nevertheless left her emotionally damaged, something that even her fierce intelligence and rationality has been unable to fully make better.
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