‘Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” by Jeanette Winterson

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal

by Jeanette Winterson

Grove Press

Pub. Date:   March 6, 2012

Book received from: Publisher


I would like to start by explaining that writing a review on the work of an author such as Jeanette Winterson poses a specific challenge of articulating the importance of the work as well as it was originally written.  When words are given such power by their author, it seems that writing about that power serves to lessen their impact.  That being said, it is also an honor to be allowed into the mind of such a prolific and private life as Winterson’s.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is an autobiography by Jeanette Winterson, author of Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Written on the Body, and many other stories.  Given that Winterson is known for writing about identity politics, it seems natural for her to deliver stories of her own life through that same lens.  What is written is her account, as she remembers and processed it, and may not be entirely accurate to others involved, as she points out that it is her story and no one else’s.

If you are familiar with Winterson’s work, this will only make you like her even more, as the veil of such a private life has had a corner lifted.  All her stories make even more sense within the context of her life, and a bit of the mystery of why her work is what it is may be explained.  She allows us to step inside her life for the duration of the book, and the result is learning more about Winterson, as well as ourselves.

If you are not familiar with her work, now is the time.  She explores adoption, suicide, life, death, relationships, the concept of time, and the effects all these have on identity.  In what is one of the most candid autobiographies so far, Winterson allows the reader to step into her life and her journey through it.

Winterson’s words read like poetry, and ebb and flow through a life history that is honest and thought-provoking.  She delivers and unapologetic account, and learns more about herself along the way.  There is so much explored within the pages of Happy/Normal, that it is impossible to really give it justice in a review.  I will sum it up by saying that Winterson’s ability to make every word hold a specific and profound meaning is rare and their importance immeasurable.  This is not a book to miss, and it will stay with you as you long after you have finished.

This book can be purchased at Amazon.com, as well as your local independent bookseller.

For more about Jeanette Winterson, go to her website here.


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