Top critical review
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on 2 December 2010
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!