Monday, 14 April 2014

Book Review - "Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?" by Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson

The trouble with Jeanette Winterson is her inability not to tell the truth. No matter how it might hurt her and others she unflinching does what she feels is right. To suggest she is 'brutally honest' is a careworn, hackneyed expression. What she does is far more intuitive and less contrived. She is not brutal at all even if what she has to say can be painful to read. In a nut shell she is much like a child lying in the sanctuary of her bed. All snuggled up with a book and the covers thrown over her head. With the torch she is using to read by she shines a light into all those curious places, the lumps and bumps of the mattress, the dips and dents then shines that light upon her life.
Intimate at times but also surgical. It is as if she has the ability to see her own life, for this is a memoir, with some detachment. This gives the telling of her life a sense of being seen from both the inside and the outside. It allows her to not only observe those people who made her life what it was, those who have shaped her character, but also allows her to view herself almost like a third party. This is not so much a good memoir but the patent for how others should be written. Never dull, never afraid to confront her demons and show both them and herself as what they are and she is. She deserves all the accolades she gets.
Being Lesbian has neither impeded her not given her, as it does many, the habit of announcing her sexuality whenever she walks in a room. She is what she is. Take it or leave it. If you have a problem with women that love women then it is your problem. She is not someone who belongs to the gay scene which I again admire.
I found myself reading this indecently funny at times memoir, laughing aloud and then, within the space of a paragraph, finding my eyes filling up. That is a rare talent especially as there is never a hint or sign of any such contrived artifice. She writes  in the moment and if that moment is both funny and sad then that is how it is told.
She doesn't write her story, her life, in any particular order. It is sort of chronological but being someone who sees beyond the confines of time she often steps out of one period and drops neatly into another. Time and memories flow in one seamless whole, a water way where various boat loads of memories bump together each sharing the same stream.

Having been adopted at a very young age then brought up by the oddly square, in every sense Mrs Winterson, Jeanette, who never refers to her adoptive mother as mum but always as Mrs Winterson, seeks to discover how much nature, her own ineffable persona formed her or how much of the stoic Mrs Winterson's upbringing did.

It is a journey, a voyage around Jeanette who was born someone else  It is a journey she takes and invites us to shadow her as she discovers her life, its dark bits, her unpleasant behaviour, her whys and wherefores, why she is who she is before she ultimately finds out about herself. And then there is the gifted storytellers natural flair for the dramatic finish. You will cry at the end of this, make no mistake about that.


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