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Gut Symmetries Paperback – July 28, 1998

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (July 28, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679777423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679777427
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #479,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Physics seems to have become the new language of love in the 1990s, and Jeanette Winterson is not the first writer to make a major character a physicist. Jonathan Lethem mined similar territory earlier this year in his delightful book, As She Climbed Across the Table, and now Winterson enters the lists with not one, but two physicists populating the pages of her equally wonderful book, Gut Symmetries. If you think about it, physics does make a good metaphor for love, encompassing as it does the principles of attraction, the exchange of energy, and unification. At the center of this meditation on "the intelligence of the universe" and "the stupidity of humankind" are Jove, a married physicist; Alice, a single physicist who becomes his mistress; and Stella, Jove's wife and later, Alice's lover. They meet on the QE2 and from there the three participants in the story take turns telling their versions of it.

Gut Symmetries is a collage of memories, snippets of scientific theory, meditations on abstract concepts like truth, and the events surrounding Jove, Alice, and Stella's affair. This is a book that demands your attention, jumping as it does from one seemingly tangential topic to another; but whereas physics still seeks a grand unification theory (GUT) to explain how everything in the universe fits together, Winterson actually finds one of her own in this satisfyingly complete fictional world. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

"Forgive me if I digress," says one character in this latest effort from the author of brilliant works like Written on the Body (LJ 2/15/93)?but you can't. The premise is so promising?the QE2 is sailing from Southampton to New York, and with the narrator lecturing on board about Paracelsus and the new physics, the reader naturally expects the sort of time-bending episodes and cool cultural assessment at which Winterson excels?that her failure to launch her own Ship of Fools is especially disappointing. A typically sharp-tongued and ambiguous Winterson character, the narrator conducts affairs with a husband and wife simultaneously (the husband, in fact, is a lecturer on time travel) but remains irksome and dull in the numerous platidinous observations that litter the page. Heavy-handed, humorless, and structurally fragmented, this is a grave disappointment from the talented Winterson. Buy only where her works are popular.?Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It's a book to read for the pleasure of the things it says, not for entertaining on a rainy day.
As said earlier, this book has the author's signature poetic prose -- and the same is illustrated in outstanding proportions.
Don't be intimidated by the physics -- this story is certainly not just about science, and it's certainly not dry and boring.
Chicago Dreamer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
If you have ever had any doubts, "Gut Symmetries" is proof that Wintersen's fiction demands an educated, intelligent reader who is serious about reading. Call me a snob if you will, but I have no sympathy for anyone who thinks this book is too hard to read or doesn't get the story. This isn't a book that a reader can race through, discarding lyric passages and descriptions wily-nily, picking out the events in chronological order, and hurrying to finish.
In many ways the metaphor is the message. If you want basic "plot" handed to you on a platter, then this book will probably not agree with you. This plot is not constructed in the run-of-the-mill, straightforward, linear plot structure that we have come to expect from television, movies, and mainstream fiction. It does not pander to the modern sense of impatience. Instead, the telling of the story relies on three different narrators, and the story is told using a non-linear episodic plot structure. Like Wintersen's other books, notably "Sexing the Cherry," the reader must rely on subtle clues to connect the pieces of the story together.
As for content, I got so involved in the story that I actually yelled at one of the characters when the "plot twist" (mentioned in the prior reviews) arose. (As well as at two other passages, at least.) Ah but again, perhaps with an eye towards metaphor the message changes...
Reading this book takes a little more effort than the average paperback. You've got to engage your mind (and perhaps, at times, your dictionary) to stay on top of it. In my opinion, it's well worth the read--a fine addition to any modern fiction library.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By on August 13, 1997
Format: Hardcover
jeanette winterson is my favorite writer; i'll tell you that right off. also i am all geeky for physics too, and was glad to see such obvious allusions to physical theory, even when she wasn't pedantically paraphrasing newton or einstein. she did her research, like always, which makes her seem so, i don't know... reliable perhaps?

but, it seems that the language of jeanette, which has always been the feathers in her wings, has gotten sort of old. in _written on the body_, i found myself craving the lyrical passages, waiting eagerly for them and reading them over and over. in _gut symmetries_, they just made me tired. i didn't think any of the characters were conveyed with passion, and i didn't find any of the moving, uplifting, soul-wrenching epiphanies i would expect from her. i re-read passages only to remember who she was writing about, because each was so like the next.
in this novel, more than the others i would say, jeanette gives us a conventional plot line, with your standard climax and surprising plot twists. the plot twist sure did surprise me, but it also struck me as crass, like when someone flips on a spotlight in your room at 3am, pitching you violently out of your dreams.
still, she's better than most. and still, maybe her heart flies in skies i wish for but do not occupy. but i wonder if she doesn't need to check out what's over the mountains because it seems we've seen this sky, tasted this wind, and wouldn't mind a new trick or two.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on December 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
The title of Winterson's novel is a triple pun, referring to the twin themes of animal instinct and modern physics (Grand Unified Theory), and--in a bizarre plot twist--human innards. Most of the narrative is presented from the perspectives of two women: Stella, a poet married to a Princeton physicist, and Alice, a younger physicist who has an affair first with Stella's husband and then with Stella herself.
Presented nonlinearly, it's one of Winterson's more challenging novels, a scrapbook weaving scientific metaphors and cabalistic mysticism with the tangled associations of three generations of three different families. "I know I am a fool, trying to make connections out of scraps. . . . Am I vain enough to assume you will understand me? No. So I go on puzzling over new joints for words, hoping that this time, one piece will slide smooth against the next." Still, a thematically satisfying, often surprising plot emerges from the accumulated snippets of poetry, witticism, and musing. Even though the book's focus is certainly not its plot, all the bits and pieces eventually tie together in satisfying and unexpected ways.
If the novel has a shortcoming, it would be the sacrifice of characterization for thematic unity and postmodern cleverness. It's difficult at times to distinguish the two women (surprising in a novel by Winterson) and their family histories, and one is often forced to seek textual clues in order to determine whether the present narrator is the Jewish poet or the British scientist.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rachael on April 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book changed my view on what great literature can be. Previously I thought plot drove the reader to keep going - reading this I was driven forward by the beauty of the words that Winterson uses, sometimes not understanding, or paying attention to the action, often reading several times to revel in the flavours of her prose. I looked with regret at the dwindling number of pages as I approached the end, wanting to stay longer in the drunken, passionate language of this wonderful book.
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