4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't recommend it to all...,
This review is from: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (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. Although I can't remember the exact quote, she refers to writing in fragments and comparing this to how she feels and views her life; that she never had the complete picture. She also comments on recurring themes within her work - love, both how to love and how to be loved and the issues around loss being just two of these.
As another reviewer has stated, the latter part of the book brings us closer to the present, as she discusses her decision to trace her birth mother. I found this particular section of the book very touching. Her honesty in writing about adoption and the many issues this brings up for individuals is very poignant. It also makes you realise just why she had to give us all that proceeds this section. When talking about Mrs Winterson, Jeanette defends her saying that she may have been a monster, but she was her monster.
So, would I recommend this book? Although I have awarded it four stars, I'm not completely sure. I do not think that I would recommend this to the majority of my friends, perhaps instead just the ones who may have some interest in either the power of books/ stories or those who have some interest in issues around adoption.