Written On The Body Paperback – 2 Sep 1993
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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
"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)
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Top Customer Reviews
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".Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Read this on my kindle then bought it in print to have and to hold. Lovely, heartfelt writing. I loved it.Published 6 days ago by MRS H BEAUMONT
"I miss you Louise. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. What then kills love? Only this: Neglect. Not to see you when you stand before me. Read morePublished 2 months ago by lordvalumart
Flowing like the natural and easy conversation with a long standing friend. The pain, the beauty, is all perfectly fathomable.Published 5 months ago by Earth Mother
This is one of the sexiest, most interesting, most thought provoking books that I have ever read. The language itself feels like a caress on your skin. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
Jeanette's unusual and unique style of writing has always had me transfixed. She is an amazing author with undoubted literal skills some of us could only dream of having. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Mrs J Fitzmaurice
This is sheer poetry, full of metaphor, full of musings on life and death and with a love/lust story running through it.Published 14 months ago by LuciusSnape123