Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

The Passion (original 1987; edition 1988)

by Jeanette Winterson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,643412,263 (4.08)120
Title:The Passion
Authors:Jeanette Winterson
Info:Penguin Books Ltd (1988), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Read but unowned, Read & released (inactive)
Tags:fiction, magical realism, R05, 1001, released, aw, love, risk

Work details

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson (1987)

Recently added byPigletto, e-zReader, private library, avere, gponym, dooney, cherobula, pilgrimess, cmlloyd67, F.L.O.W.



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 120 mentions

English (34)  Swedish (3)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (41)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
OK, Henri reaches Villanelle's city via Boulogne, Paris and Moscow, marching with Napoleon's army, but the real setting of this novel is definitely Venice. Or rather, Jeanette Winterson’s own magical version of Venice, ambiguously squalid and romantic. City, of course, of miracles, disguises, gamblers and passion. I really enjoyed spending time with Henri, village boy, soldier, killer-in-chief of Napoleon’s chickens. And Villanelle, Venetian boatman’s daughter, card dealer, cross-dresser. And Venice which, as is its wont, becomes a character in its own right, dangerous, glamorous, resistant to rationalisation and order. ( )
  Bernadette877 | Jun 2, 2015 |
Really lovely, just a touch of magical realism. A lot of space devoted to gender identity and its obscuration. Reminds me of Jean Rhys (who is one of my top ten authors). Everything that seems like a lie is likely real, but much of what seems genuine is deception or self-deception.

I had read and liked Winterson's Oranges are Not the Only Fruit years ago, but hadn't read anything else of hers till I picked this up in the library book sale. Just looked her up- I hadn't realized she'd been so prolific. ( )
1 vote jscape2000 | Apr 30, 2015 |
This is my favorite Winterson book, and one of my favorite books of all time. She has amazingly found new ways and words with which to describe romantic love, a dubious task at best! Plus the imagery is astounding as always, and the prose is both poetic and concrete. ( )
  KelAppNic | Feb 14, 2015 |
The story is set in the time of Napoleon and features Henri, a young man who loves Napoleon and cooks for him and a young woman Villanelle, from Venice who loses her heart to another woman. Henri and Villanelle meet up in the snows of Russia. It is a story of passion. Passions of Napoleon, passions of Villanelle and passions of Henri. The writing is beautiful written and of a style, magical realism.

First words: It was Napoleon who had such a passion for chicken that he kept his chefs working around the clock. What a kitchen that was, with birds in every state of undress; some still cold and slung over hooks, some turning slowly on the spit, but most in wasted piles because the Emperor was busy.

Quotes: “I'm telling you stories. Trust me.”

“I think now that being free is not being powerful or rich or well regarded or without obligations but being able to love. To love someone else enough to forget about yourself even for one moment is to be free.”

"the difference between inventing a lover and falling in love. The one is about you, the other about someone else."

Last words: I'm telling you stories. Trust me. ( )
1 vote Kristelh | Dec 18, 2014 |
Several years ago, I read Jeanette Winterson's “Written On The Body,” which made a tremendous impression on me, and unfortunately I haven't found my way to another Winterson novel until now. What struck me most about her writing then and still what attracts me the most is her command of an innovative, unique style that reminds me of a melange of the best of Robertson Davies, Angela Carter, and Borges. It has a fantastical quality all its own that seems quite separate from magical realism, and in my opinion is much more engaging.

The novel comes in a tiny package, but there's plenty to think about. One of the leitmotifs is the idea of passion in all its forms – war, human love, gambling, the epicurean passions of the sybarite. The character of Villanelle, the daughter of a Venetian boatman who at night masquerades as a man in the Felliniesque casinos of her city, allows the novel just as openly to play with themes of identity and gender – a continuing them in Winterson's fiction.

Henri is a professional soldier in Napoleon's army, fatefully chosen to be the tender of the Emperor's larders as he makes the monomaniacal decision to invade Russia – in the winter, which the characters call “a zero winter.” Villanelle is a fascinating character: married to a vile man, she ends up getting sold into Napoleon's army as a prostitute for community use. Villanelle and Henry meet as Napoleon's army is finally collapsing under its own weight, and Henri has made the decision to desert, along with Patrick, an eccentric priest with a history all his own. During their journey back to Italy, Henri and Villanelle fall in love.

After they finally make it back home, he rescues her beating heart from a Venetian palace, places it back into her body, goes stark raving mad (like Emperor, like soldier), and is committed to a prison where he is forced to see his beloved row by in her gondola every single day. Just like the end of every other love story you've ever read, right?

Villanelle is also a body of paradoxes – a whore and a savior, a man and a woman, a warrior and a lover. Winterson uses religious imagery to highlight her, and successfully manages to make her dialogue with the character of Henri almost kerygmatic. (The passion of the gospels is possibly still another that Winterson is trying to unearth as the story develops.)

While I may very well go back to my old ways and not read her again for another several years, Jeanette Winterson's fiction deserves some serious attention. You can always expect her to be concerned with the mercurial nature of human love (and especially lesbian love), but beyond that, you will never know the set of tropes she will use to explore it – fantastic historical fiction here, physics in “Gut Symmetries,” a post-apocalyptic hellscape in “The Stone Gods,” or memoir in “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” But I hope I’ve learned my lesson and don’t neglect her again for nearly as long. ( )
1 vote kant1066 | Sep 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
We know from her first two novels that Jeanette Winterson is not lacking in a sense of humor and a sense of the absurd, but these qualities are greatly attenuated in The Passion, and one must hope that she does not renounce them altogether in pursuit of romantic high seriousness. In other respects The Passion represents a remarkable advance in boldness and invention, compared to her previous novels,
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, David Lodge (pay site) (Nov 29, 1988)

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jeanette Wintersonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tamminen, LeenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
You have navigated with raging soul and far from the paternal home, passing beyond the seas' double rocks and now you inhabit a foreign land.

For Pat Kavanagh

My thanks are due to Don and Ruth Rendell
whose hospitality gave me the space to work.
To everyone at Bloomsbury, especially Liz Calder.
To Philippa Brewster for her patience.
First words
It was Napoleon who had such a passion for chicken that he kept his chefs working around the clock. What a kitchen that was, with birds in every state of undress; some still cold and slung over hooks, some turning slowly on the spit, but most in wasted piles because the Emperor was busy.
I'm telling you stories. Trust me.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802135226, Paperback)

In 1985 Jeanette Winterson won the Whitbread Award for best first fiction for the semi-autobiographical Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, an often wry exploration of lesbian possibility bumping up against evangelical fanaticism. She was 25. Two years later, The Passion, her third novel, appeared, the fantastical tale of Henri--Napoleon's cook--and Villanelle, a Venetian gondolier's daughter who has webbed feet (previously an all-male attribute), works as a croupier, picks pockets, cross-dresses, and literally loses her heart to a beautiful woman. Written in a lyrical and jolting combination of fairy tale diction and rhythm and the staccato, the book would be a risky proposition in lesser hands. Winterson has said that she wanted to look at people's need to worship and examine what happens to young men in militaristic societies. The question was, how to do so without being polemical and didactic? Only she could have come up with such an exquisite answer. In the end, Henri, incarcerated on an island of madmen, becomes aware that his passion, "even though she could never return it, showed me the difference between inventing a lover and falling in love. The one is about you, the other about someone else."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:22 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Henri had a passion for Napoleon and Napoleon had a passion for chicken. From Boulogne to Moscow Henri butchered for his Emperor and never killed a single man. With a de-frocked priest and a midget groom, Henri witnessed the scourge of Europe. In Venice, the city of chance and disguises, a great beauty was born with the webbed feet of her boatman father. In the casino, Villanelle learned that what people risk reveals what they value - she gambled her heart and lost. For eight years the soldier-chef watched young men die and his love for Napoleon turned to hate. Passion does not take disappointment well. He found the Venetian beauty whose heart was lost and together they fled frozen Russia to the canals of darkness and paradox.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
7 avail.
103 wanted
5 pay

Popular covers


Average: (4.08)
1 5
1.5 2
2 17
2.5 6
3 93
3.5 42
4 209
4.5 31
5 210

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 97,851,988 books! | Top bar: Always visible