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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by…

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011)

by Jeanette Winterson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,183756,798 (4.06)162
  1. 72
    Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (Anonymous user)
  2. 10
    Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron (librorumamans)
  3. 00
    Shimmer by Sarah Schulman (Philosofiction)
  4. 00
    Ghost Waltz: A Family Memoir by Ingeborg Day (sparemethecensor)
    sparemethecensor: Different subject matter but similar nonlinear styles and reflective prose.
  5. 00
    The Adoption Papers by Jackie Kay (thorold)
    thorold: Scottish poet vs. Lancashire novelist in a race to discover their biological parents...
  6. 00
    Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Both writers survive fundamentalist childhoods and difficult young adulthoods to attain a measure of serenity in middle age.

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Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
This is such a stellar book that a review is difficult. Suffice it to say it is one wherein I want to tell my book loving friends to read it--just go ahead and read it! Those of us who are avid readers know good writing when we read, and feel it!

The author was adopted. Sadly, she was taken into a small England town by a flat-out-crazy woman and her never discuss a problem husband.

While Jeanette was physically and emotionally beaten down, her father simply followed what his wife wanted her to do. If she "needed" to be beaten, then he did it.

Throughout the book, the author never calls the woman mother. She is known as "Mrs."
Left alone on the outside stoop for hours and hours, or locked in a bin, she learned to get tough. It is with words that her internal beauty came through.

Always drawn to books, when she worked, she bought them. When the Mrs. found them, they were promptly burnt.

At the age of sixteen, when Jeanette discovered love via another woman's arms, in church her mother announced that an exorcism was needed. No where better was the hypocrisy of her mother's religion shown than when one of the men performing the exorcism was visibly aroused and tried to accost Jeanette.

This incredibly well-written book is about many things. It is about the search for love and the difficulty of trust. It is about the search for identity of a biological mother. It is about reading and the redemption of beautifully crafted words. It is about the meaning of home. And, I urge you to read it--just go ahead and read it.

Five stars. ( )
2 vote Whisper1 | Apr 15, 2016 |
(7.5) ( )
  HelenBaker | Mar 31, 2016 |
This book is a new addition to my most favorite books ever! I must have used about a half a tin of those little copper page markers, there were just so many poignant events and wonderful insights throughout this book. This is the story of Jeanette, whose adoptive mother was difficult and unloving, to say the least. Abusive comes to mind. And yet, Jeanette rises above it, buffered by a few key individuals and by her boundless love of books. Lest this scare any readers away, I did not find this to be a sad book. There are sad moments, but it is also, reflective, very funny, and so wise. The stories are unforgettable and I cannot wait to read more by this amazing author.

First, a taste of her sad childhood: "When she knew I was keeping a diary she said, 'I never kept secrets from my mother...but I am not your mother, am I?' And after that she never was. When I wanted to learn to play her piano she said, ' When you come back from school I will have sold it.' She had."

On a lighter note, here is one of Winterson's literary insights from Jack and the Beanstalk. "The bridge (the Beanstalk) between the two worlds is unpredictable and very surprising. And later, when the giant tries to climb after Jack, the beanstalk has to be chopped down pronto. This suggests to me that the pursuit of happiness, which we may as well call life, is full of surprising temporary elements -- we get somewhere we couldn't go otherwise and we profit from the trip, but we can't stay there, it isn't our world, and we shouldn't let that world come crashing down into the one we inhabit. The beanstalk has to be chopped down. But the large-scale riches from the 'other world' can be brought into ours, just as Jack makes off with the singing harp and the golden hen. Whatever we 'win' will accommodate itself to our size and form..."

And as to how Winterson writes, in a nonlinear form (which I loved!): Her mother discovered Jeanette's hidden trove of books and immediately suspected the worst: Satanism and pornography. She took all her books and threw them out the window into the backyard. Then she set them on fire while Jeanette watched.

"I watched them blaze and blaze and remember thinking how warm it was, how light, on the freezing Saturnian January night. And books have always been light and warmth to me.

"I had bound them all in plastic because they were precious. Now they were gone.

"In the morning there were stray bits of text all over the yard and in the alley. Burnt jigsaws of books. I collected some of the scraps.

"It is probably why I write as I do -- collecting the scraps, uncertain of continuous narrative. What does Eliot say? 'These fragments have I shored against my ruin...'"

From these ashes, a wonderful story and a great writer, one who appreciates how her bitter youth made her the woman she is today. Highly recommended. 5 stars. ( )
1 vote Berly | Mar 17, 2016 |
Why be Happy When You Could be Normal by Jeanette Winterson - Very Good

I read Oranges are not the only fruit last year and loved it. I'd seen the tv series back in the day but hadn't realised, until reading the book, that it was semi autobiographical. This one actually is her autobiography, so it covers some of the same story, without the 'embroidery', and then takes us beyond when she left home.

We are a similar age and were brought up in similar Lancashire Mill Towns, so some of her childhood is very, very familiar. Most of it is NOT! What a start in life! If you are not aware of her and haven't read Oranges... She was adopted and brought up by a religious fanatic who threw her out of the house at age 16 when she discovered she was a lesbian.

That is pretty much where Oranges... stops. This book takes us onwards to Oxford, her post-university life, her relationships, her search for her natural mother etc.

She has a wonderful use of language and the book, whilst difficult to read of the hardships of her life, was a joy to read in other respects.

( )
  Cassandra2020 | Jan 24, 2016 |
A very powerful autobiography by an exceptional writer who looks at her past through the eyes of pain, loss, clarification and love - I started this book twice and put it down - then really decided to read it slowly - and with that I couldn't stop reading - the author painted her story with words - she was adopted in infancy and raised by a strict religious very emotionally sick mother who didn't begin to understand how to love and raise a healthy child - Jeanette had to learn to connect and to become her authentic self by healing step by step and at times losing herself in the process -

This was a very powerful book written by a brave and talented woman - she drew me in and then let me go exhausted but fulfilled. Thanks Librarything for the recommendation! ( )
  njinthesun | Jan 2, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
Where Winterson's debut, a tragic-comic tale of a young girl who is adopted by Pentecostal missionaries in Accrington, offered us a semi-fictionalised version of her childhood, her latest describes the reality. And what a hellish reality it was. Winterson's story is one of abandonment, loneliness, madness and defiance. It is both inspiring and appalling, its cruellest details only made digestible by the restrained elegance of Winterson's prose.
This is certainly the most moving book of Winterson's I have ever read, and it also feels like the most turbulent and the least controlled.
added by thorold | editThe Guardian, Zoe Williams (Nov 4, 2011)
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To my three mothers:
Constance Winterson
Ruth Rendell
Ann S
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When my mother was angry with me, which was often, she said, 'The Devil led us to the wrong crib.'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This memoir is a tough-minded search for belonging, for love, an identity, a home, and a mother by the author of "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit"--winner of the Whitbread First Novel award and the inspiration behind the award-winning BBC television adaptation "Oranges."… (more)

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