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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by [Winterson, Jeanette]
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4.2 out of 5 stars 245 customer reviews

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Length: 242 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

In her new memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Winterson returns to the source, her grim girlhood in a sooty English industrial town in the 1960s, to tell her story more forthrightly than she has before. Aiming for narrative tidiness tends to dilute this memoir's delightfully unorthodox quality. But for the most part, this bullet of a book is charged with risk, dark mirth, and hard-won self-knowledge. —Parul Sehgal

Review

"Unforgettable... It's the best book I have ever read about the cost of growing up." -- Daisy Goodwin Sunday Times "A searingly felt and expressed autobiography...Funny and profoundly hopeful - a tale of survival" -- Kate Hamer Metro "This book is good, sensible, beautiful company... Try this" -- A.L. Kennedy Week "Jeanette Winterson's writing is poetic, emotive and beautiful" So Many Books So Little Time (blog) "Incredibly moving and full of Winterson's characteristic wit." Elle

Product Details

  • File Size: 634 KB
  • Print Length: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (October 27, 2011)
  • Publication Date: October 27, 2011
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005EWDA7E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,250 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. B. King VINE VOICE on January 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
How to start a review of Jeanette Winterson and her writing. Not an easy task. If you have read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, her autobiographical novel about her childhood and early adulthood, then you know that she is a fiery independent woman, who, incidentally, is also a lesbian. She wrote it as fiction in her twenties. Now in her fifties, she revisits that time of her life. The term brutal honesty keeps popping up, but she is not brutal. There is a profound tenderness for herself and for those in her life. What she shows us is the hard scrabble life in working class Northern England of the seventies. (Her observations on the effects of Thatcher's policies are sharp-edged.) Looking back after thirty, forty years, she seems to have found some forgiveness for the woman apparently incapable of love who adopted her.
Winterson does not write "womb to tomb" as she puts it. She circles the object of her study, her book. And we realize that this object is her heart, so tough that love is not allowed in. She pokes here and there, probing her memories, reliving brief insightful moments of her childhood. She reports to us how she could not love anyone, or even befriend a classmate, despite desperately needing someone in her young life.
And then, being Jeanette Winterson, she takes us to the present time and her search for her birth mother, which is mainly a struggle to get though the bureaucratic procedures set up to thwart adoptees from locating their birth parents.
The book ends with limited resolution, with Jeanette's heart finally opening. It is the most tender-hearted inconclusive ending I have read, probably ever. She stands with her heart exposed, bruised, torn, but beating strong.
I love this woman's writing. I do not always like her books, but this one is truly magnificent.
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Format: Kindle Edition
In the October 28th Guardian, Jeanette has an essay which retells the opening of Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal? The retelling is as riveting as the original. In essay and book, Winterson portrays herself as a survivor. Her childhood reads like the darker parts of some Grimms fairytale, even if her telling of the story is often lightened by empathy. Here, for instance, is a description of her often abusive, book-burning, adoptive mother.

"She filled the phone box. She was out of scale, larger than life. She was like a fairy story where size is approximate and unstable. She loomed up. She expanded. Only later, much later, too late, did I understand how small she was to herself. The baby nobody picked up. The uncarried child still inside her."

A later passage reads:

"Babies are frightening - raw tyrants whose only kingdom is their own body. My new mother had a lot of problems with the body - her own, my dad's, their bodies together, and mine. She had muffled her own body in flesh and clothes, suppressed its appetites with a fearful mixture of nicotine and Jesus, dosed it with purgatives that made her vomit, submitted it to doctors, who administered enemas and pelvic rings, subdued its desires for ordinary touch and comfort. Then suddenly, not out of her own body, and with no preparation, she had a thing that was all body. A burping, vomiting, sprawling faecal thing blasting the house with rude life."

Jeanette makes it hard not to feel some sympathy, even for twisted Mrs. Winterson.

Like many patremoirs, Winterson's matremoir is as much about the power of storytelling as it is about the parent.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My one thought on finishing this book is that I'd like to convey to Ms. Winterson my sorrow over her abusive and stunted childhood. I had a strict and restrictive faith upbringing, but it was within the context of a stable home and caring parents. For those who complain that Ms. Winterson is a whiner, I believe there is no way to adequately express how deeply this kind of upbringing can crush your soul. Well, there is one way of doing it -- by writing about it. Ms. Winterson has done that, both here and with her fictional Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and I hope it brings her a measure of peace.

My three-star rating stems from the fact that in this memoir, Ms. Winterson refers repeatedly to her other books and writings, quoting parts of them at length, and I'm not familiar with these books, so the references didn't hold the depth of meaning for me that they obviously hold for her. This feeling that I was missing out on something made it hard for me to stay with the narrative at many points. Yet she is a colorful and insightful writer, which kept me reading to the end.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Highlighted on my kindle for the first time, a rarity, don't expect to repeat that. Laughed and cried, in just about equal measures. I would say I am not normally gripped by 'quality' writing in itself, like some people I know, where the story does not compel me but his book has it all. So impressed; by the story, the writing, the writer, the profoundness. I am calling it a perfect read and something I have learnt from.
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