Brilliant book. That’s bookmas for today. Always good to see you…
Alright, I’ll give you some detail.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson is a memoir, mainly of Jeanette’s childhood and adolescence (random sidenote: normally, I call authors by their surnames but, having read an entire book of her life, I’d feel weird not calling her Jeanette…). It’s about her being adopted into a very religious household in Northern England, her relationship with her parents, her discovering her sexuality which her mother massively disagrees with, leaving home and throughout all of this always finding a home in literature.
It’s a book I don’t feel like I can do justice by writing about because there’s so much to it. Home and identity and how the two are related is definitely what this book tried to explore. Although her being lesbian without a doubt massively influenced the way her life worked out, this wasn’t a book about her sexuality or about homophobia to me.
It’s Jeanette Winterson trying to find and understand herself, but done in a way where, while almost exclusively talking about her experience, it’s not just about her.
Being adopted with no links to her birth parents and being rejected by her parents (or mother) for who she is obviously made it harder for Jeanette to feel at home somewhere and, more specifically, feel at home in her own mind.
Matching that insecurity and searching, the book feels like a notebook in the best way possible. There isn’t a straightforward timeline, there’s pagelong digressions that feel like they’ve got nothing to do with the story and yet they work just right. Winterson talks a lot about books, literature, poetry and language, but also Northern England, class and the social situation in the 70s.
And then there’s the last part of this memoir, which is completely different from the rest because it doesn’t look back, reflect and interweave. It’s written as it happens, which most people love for the rawness and honesty it gives, but I have to say I didn’t love it as gushingly as I did the rest.
Still, this was a gorgeous read and I want to hand out copies to everyone I know, because it is just that interesting.
This is the perfect book to read with somebody else too. I definitely missed someone to talk it over with while reading, but hey, that calls for a reread, right?