One of my continuing aims in 2014 is to continue to read more non-fiction. Sadly even though I enjoyed many memoirs in 2013 it has been many, many months since I have picked one up. I decided to change all that when I picked up Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson. A book I was lucky enough to win of copy of in 2013.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is the recollections of author Jeanette Winterson on her lonely and unusual childhood as an adopted child in a small terrace house in Accrington. Winterson is most well known for her 1985 novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit which was eventually discovered to be a fictionalised version of Winterson’s childhood. Through Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal Winterson’s hoped to finally write a real account of her recollections instead of allowing readers to guess what was true or not in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.
The two individuals that really stand out in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal are the author Jeanette and her tyrannical adoptive mother Mrs Winterson. Jeanette is a confused child who from her earliest memory has felt lonely and in the wrong place. As a young woman Jeanette’s choice to read and educate herself, and her love for women only makes to isolate her more in a small working class town. I liked Jeanette while I couldn’t always relate I could sympathise. Then we have Mrs Winterson an unhappy wife, mother and woman who is constantly awaiting dooms day. Mrs Winterson extreme religious views and tyrannical rule only furthers Jeanette’s feelings of loneliness and being in the wrong place as she strives and always fails to impress her adoptive mother.
While I have heard of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit I have not read it and so Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is the first book I have read by Jeanette Winterson. I choose a copy of this for my prize and I was excited about reading it. The only reason I can see for me not picking it up was I presumed it would be a tragic tale. On reading this what I found was that yes there were tragic moments but there was also happiness, sadness, hope and humour. On top of liking Jeanette as a character I found I also liked her as a writer. Winterson never allows the tale to become too static or dry and I thought it was beautifully written. Which meant I found myself flying through this memoir not really wishing to put it down. After reading this I would really like to read more of Winterson’s work.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is a beautifully told tale of a lonely and unusual childhood but with hints of hope and humour.
Have you read this? Any Winterson recommendations?