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The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
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The Passion (original 1987; edition 1988)

by Jeanette Winterson

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2,762482,119 (4.06)126
Member:crimson-tide
Title:The Passion
Authors:Jeanette Winterson
Info:Penguin Books Ltd (1988), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Read but unowned, Read & released (inactive)
Rating:*****
Tags:fiction, magical realism, R05, 1001, released, aw, love, risk

Work details

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson (1987)

  1. 00
    The Elephant's Journey by José Saramago (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Fictional characters interwoven with real historical figures and events ranging across the European continent.
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Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
This is a fascinating and unusual book: a historical novel set in France, Russia and Venice during Napoleon's war rampage, it is full of magical realism, philosophical quotes, friendship, violence, endurance, disguises, madness, and love. Yes, passion too, but rarely in the steamy sex-raged way you might expect.

Winterson's writing is very unusual too; the sentences are often quite short, as is the book, but both the sentences and novel include everything you need. This is not a book to skim. The images are clear, but the full meaning is sometimes elusive until later in the book. ( )
  Connie-D | Feb 21, 2016 |
I picked this up because I'd read Winterson's 'Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit' years ago, and really liked it. But, while that was an autobiographically-inclined novel, this was quite different. A historical novel, it tells the story of a young French man who becomes Napoleon's cook, and a wild Venetian girl with a penchant for cross-dressing. These two unlikely characters' lives eventually intertwine, with hefty doses of the surreal and magical realism. Winterson is an extremely talented writer, but I found the experience to be a bit uneven at times - perhaps just because I liked the parts featuring Villanelle (the girl) much more than those with Henri. The book is vividly and poetically written; it is also philosophical and sad. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
An OK book, interesting concept but not fully realised. If you enjoy her other novels then read it, if you haven't read any others then start with another such as The Powerbook which was wonderful. ( )
  Superenigmatix | Jan 16, 2016 |
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
4.5 stars

Set in the time of the Napoleonic Wars, the Passion is a novel about passion and love in its various forms. The story is told from the perspective of two protagonists: Henri, a young French soldier and Villanelle, the web-footed, cross-dressing daughter of a Venetian boatman. Part historical fiction and part fantasy, this book is all great story telling with multiple layers and messages.

I loved this book. I like magical realism and I loved the way she blended magical elements into what seemed initially like a historical novel. In adding these elements she blends genres and blurs the boundaries between history and storytelling and between the miraculous and the everyday. I found the story to be quite complex (with themes that go beyond these discussion questions) and definitely requires more than one reading to fully understand all that the author is trying to say. It's a commentary on war, history and storytelling, and of course love and passion in it's various forms (e.g., for war/violence, intimate passion, gambling, etc). I also really enjoyed her style of story telling with language that was exact and sparse but with elements of poetry and rhythm interweaved throughout (words, phrases, and even whole sentences repeated at various points throughout).

I do agree with some others in their critique of the blending of voices between the two protagonists. I personally didn't find it difficulty to tell them apart, however when I first started reading (before getting to Villanelle) I kept thinking that Henri was a woman because his narration felt very feminine to me. I wonder if this was intentional to blur the two voices since there were other elements of challenging gender boundaries throughout (e.g., Villanelle cross-dressing, and Villanelle seeming to have a more "masculine" or powerful voice than Henri. Villanelle was the more active, independent and powerful of the two whereas I say Henri as more passive (thus contradicting traditional stereotypes of the masculine and feminine).

Finally, I really liked some of the passages about love and passion. I found them compelling and very interesting and I enjoyed seeing how the various characters embodied passion in different ways. I will definitely be reaching for another one of her books in the near future. This was very enjoyable and thought-provoking book for me.

Favorite quotes:

I was happy but happy is an adult word. You don’t have to ask a child about happy, you see it. They are or they are not. Adults talk about being happy because largely they are not. Talking about it is the same as trying to catch the wind. Much easier to let it blow all over you. This is where I disagree with philosophers. They talk about passionate things but there is no passion in them. Never talk happiness with a philosopher.

The body shuts down when it has too much to bear; goes its own way quietly inside, waiting for a better time, leaving you numb and half alive.

Somewhere between fear and sex passion is. Passion is not so much an emotion as a destiny.

Do all lovers feel helpless and valiant in the presence of the beloved? Helpless because the need to roll over like a pet dog is never far away. Valiant because you know you would slay a dragon with a pocket knife if you had to.
( )
  JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
The Passion Jeanette Winterson
4 Stars

This is the story of two people united by chance Henri a man of small stature serving in Napoleons army and Villanelle the daughter of an Venetian boatman who works in a casino and loves the game of chance. The story is told from the switching view points of the two main narrators as we learn about their lives and loves up until the point where they meet and change each others lives forever.

How reliable either narrator is, is in question as they both employ the phrase "I'm telling you stories. Trust me"

I love the lyrical way Winterson describes Venice "This is the city of mazes. You may set of from the same place to the same place every day and never go by the same route. If you do so it will be by mistake" Venice is more than a city it is alive it changes according to who is seeing it and what is in their hearts, more than a backdrop it is a character in its own right.

I really enjoyed Wintersons writing and the use of magical realism at various points throughout the novel, this is a book I think would benefit from a second reading with the ending known so you can just enjoy the prose along the route to the end. ( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (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
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Epigraph
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.

Medea
Dedication
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.
Quotations
I'm telling you stories. Trust me.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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."
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:19 -0400)

(see all 6 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)

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