Why be happy when you could be normal?

Jeanette Winterson, 1959-

Book - 2011

This memoir is a tough-minded search for belonging, for love, an identity, a home, and a mother by the author of "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit"--winner of the Whitbread First Novel award and the inspiration behind the award-winning BBC television adaptation "Oranges."

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BIOGRAPHY/Winterson, Jeanette
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2nd Floor BIOGRAPHY/Winterson, Jeanette Due Jun 3, 2022
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Subjects
Published
New York : Grove Press 2011.
Language
English
Physical Description
230 p. ; 22 cm
ISBN
9780802120106
0802120105
Main Author
Jeanette Winterson, 1959- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Winterson's volatile and eccentrically devout adoptive mother was "apocalyptic by nature." In self-defense, as we learn in this galvanizing memoir and testimony to the healing properties of creativity, Winterson took shelter in the library, discovering in poetry and fiction "language powerful enough to say how it is." After she acquired some books of her own, only to have her ogre of a mother burn them, Winterson summoned her resolve: "‘Fuck it,' I thought, ‘I can write my own.'" She was similarly stoic when her mother caught her in bed with another girl and arranged for an exorcism that turned sexually abusive. Winterson fled her bleak Lancashire home at 16, got herself to Oxford, and wrote her first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), which became a beacon in gay culture. Drawing on her cartwheel imagination and piercing worldview, Winterson wrote a dozen more books (Sexing the Cherry, 1990; The Stone Gods, 2008) to resounding acclaim. But her long-submerged anguish finally boiled up, leading to a breakdown, an unnerving search for her birth mother, and an all-out struggle to understand what it is to love and be loved. Clarion, courageous, and vividly expressive, Winterson conducts a dramatic and revelatory inquiry into the forging of the self and the liberating power of literature. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Raised by adoptive parents in a grimy north England industrial town, Winterson endured a religious fanatic of a mother with two sets of dentures and a tendency to lock her daughter out of the house at night. When her past caught up with the author, literature saved her—a lesson worth repeating. For anyone who loves Winterson's scalding fiction and memoir generally; with an eight-city tour. [Page 59]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

British novelist (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit) Winterson's adoption as an infant by a fanatically religious mother and an ineffectual father set in motion a lifetime of stories. She includes sketches of the unrelenting drabness of a childhood in postwar northern England and provides a vivid picture of the grotesque behaviors of the lunatic mother she refers to as "Mrs. Winterson." This is a detailed portrait of a life that saved itself. What I'm Telling My Friends The hard work Winterson did to find her place in the world after growing up as an outsider's outsider is not exaggerated. We are lucky she survived to tell the tale. [See Prepub Alert, 9/12/11.] - "Memoir Short Takes," Booksmack! 11/3/11 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Winterson paints a detailed portrait of a life that saved itself in the face of lunacy and miserable parenting (with gratitude to those who lent a hand, including librarians). (LJ 11/1/11) (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

An acclaimed British novelist, Winterson deftly writes of a rough childhood with her adoptive fundamentalist parents in a dark, industrial town. It's England, the 1960s, and the air is full of social change but not in her family. This is a bold, raw coming-of-age story of a girl who escapes and learns to accept herself and become a successful author. (LJ 11/1/11) [Page 48]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

"What would it have meant to be happy? What would it have meant if things had been bright, clear, good between us?" Winterson (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit) asks of her relationship with her adoptive mother, questions that haunt this raw memoir to its final pages. Winterson first finds solace in the Accrington Public Library in Lancashire, where she stumbles across T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral and begins to cry: "the unfamiliar and beautiful play made things bearable that day." She is asked to leave the library for crying and sits on the steps in "the usual northern gale" to finish the book. The rest is history. Highly improbably for a woman of her class, she gets into Oxford and goes on to have a very successful literary career. But she finds that literature—and literary success—can only fulfill so much in her. There's another ingredient missing: love. The latter part of the book concerns itself with this quest, in which Winterson learns that the problem is not so much being gay (for which her mother tells her "you'll be in Hell") as it is in the complex nature of how to love anyone when one has only known perverse love as a child. This is a highly unusual, scrupulously honest, and endearing memoir. (Mar.) [Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Traces the author's lifelong search for happiness as the adopted daughter of Pentecostal parents who raised her through practices of fierce control and paranoia, an experience that prompted her to search for her biological mother.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The author of the best-selling Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit traces her life-long search for happiness as the adopted daughter of Pentecostal parents who raised her in a north England industrial town through practices of fierce control and paranoia, an experience that prompted her to search for her biological mother and turn for solace to the literary world. 50,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Jeanette Winterson’s novels have established her as a major figure in world literature. She has written some of the most admired books of the past few decades, including her internationally bestselling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents that is now often required reading in contemporary fiction.Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a memoir about a life’s work to find happiness. It's a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in an north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition; about the Universe as Cosmic Dustbin.It is the story of how a painful past that Jeanette thought she'd written over and repainted rose to haunt her, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother.Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging?for love, identity, home, and a mother.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Jeanette Winterson’s novels have established her as a major figure in world literature. She has written some of the most admired books of the past few decades, including her internationally bestselling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents that is now often required reading in contemporary fiction.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a memoir about a life’s work to find happiness. It's a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in an north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition; about the Universe as Cosmic Dustbin.

It is the story of how a painful past that Jeanette thought she'd written over and repainted rose to haunt her, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother.

Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging—for love, identity, home, and a mother.