In 1985 Jeanette Winterson won the Whitbread Award for best first fiction for the semi-autobiographical Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit,
an often wry exploration of lesbian possibility bumping up against evangelical fanaticism. She was 25. Two years later, The Passion,
her third novel, appeared, the fantastical tale of Henri--Napoleon's cook--and Villanelle, a Venetian gondolier's daughter who has webbed feet (previously an all-male attribute), works as a croupier, picks pockets, cross-dresses, and literally loses her heart to a beautiful woman. Written in a lyrical and jolting combination of fairy tale diction and rhythm and the staccato, the book would be a risky proposition in lesser hands. Winterson has said that she wanted to look at people's need to worship and examine what happens to young men in militaristic societies. The question was, how to do so without being polemical and didactic? Only she could have come up with such an exquisite answer. In the end, Henri, incarcerated on an island of madmen, becomes aware that his passion, "even though she could never return it, showed me the difference between inventing a lover and falling in love. The one is about you, the other about someone else."
From Publishers Weekly
This arresting, elegant novel by the author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit uses Napoleon's Europe as the setting for a tantalizing surrealistic romance between an observer of history and a creature of fantasy. Henri is a naive French soldier who works in Bonaparte's kitchen and worships the conqueror until his starving and diseased army begins to crumble. Disillusioned and longing to escape a desolate posting in the Russian winter, the young man meets and falls in love with Villanelle, a mysterious Venetian hoping to retrieve her own heart, which has literally been stolen and imprisoned by a noblewoman she once loved. Passiondescribed by the manipulative Villanelle as "somewhere between fear and sex"leads Henri on a desperate quest away from his beliefs and into an emotional labyrinth from which he may be unable to return. The slender story is sometimes lost in the strange brew of myth, fact and modernism, but British author Winterson's assured proseparticularly her stunning evocations of a glacial Russia and a decadent nighttime Venicedoes much to unify her unsettling tale.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.