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

by Jeanette Winterson

Other authors: T. S. Eliot (Author), Anne Sexton (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,9611007,479 (4.06)271
Memories of the author about her difficult childhood as the adopted daughter of an English mother with strong religious convictions, and her subsequent search for her biological mother.
  1. 72
    Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (Anonymous user)
  2. 20
    Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron (librorumamans)
  3. 00
    Shimmer by Sarah Schulman (Philosofiction)
  4. 00
    The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both books feature a lonely, gay child growing up, finding salvation in books.
  5. 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.
  6. 00
    Adoption Papers by Jackie Kay (thorold)
    thorold: Scottish poet vs. Lancashire novelist in a race to discover their biological parents...
  7. 00
    Ghost Waltz: A Family Memoir by Ingeborg Day (sparemethecensor)
    sparemethecensor: Different subject matter but similar nonlinear styles and reflective prose.

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» See also 271 mentions

English (92)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (100)
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
I have a new favorite lesbian writer. ( )
  JRobinW | Jan 20, 2023 |
Both the book and Winterson's "performance" of reading it are brilliant. I felt as if she were sitting next to me in the car telling me her story. It's the story of her growing up and then more recent years...skipping some time in the middle of her life. If you've read Oranges you'll enjoyed this very much, but even if you've never read a word of Winterson's writing this is an excellent memoir about mothers--adopted, biological, chosen--and daughters, about learning how to live in the world, about claiming your life. But it's not just about mothers and daughters so don't be put off. And its certainly not about mothers and daughters in any sappy kind of way, but in the raw grittiness of how things are or can be. It's about Winterson's life, her desire to write, her reading, English literature, industrial northern England, going mad, finding love, etc. The only draw-back to listening to this rather than reading it is that I couldn't underline the poignant moments, the bits of philosophy or beautiful sentences that I'd like to go back to and appreciate. I plan on reading the book in the future so I can do just that. ( )
  Chris.Wolak | Oct 13, 2022 |
my intro to her fabulous writing ( )
  Overgaard | Sep 19, 2022 |
This is strong stuff. Bourbon, not Chardonnay.

In this memoir Winterson takes a tough look at her life. Not just the decidedly odd circumstances of her childhood, but also about herself as an adult. She is candid about her emotional challenges in a way that manages to be both brutally honest and also hopeful for future growth.

Along the way she writes beautifully and at length about the meaning of home:

“I've always tried to make a home for myself, but I have not felt at home in myself. I've worked hard at being the hero of my own life. But every time I checked the register of displaced persons, I was still on it. I didn't know how to belong. Longing? Yes. Belonging? No.”

and about social and cultural issues:

“I didn't want to be in the teeming mass of the working class.... I didn't want to live and die in the same place with only a week at the seaside in between. I dreamed of escape -- but what is terrible about industrialisation is that it makes escape necessary. In a system that generates masses, individualism is the only way out. But then what happens to community -- to society?”

And most importantly, about reading and writing:

“The more I read, the more I felt connected across time to other lives and deeper sympathies. I felt less isolated. I wasn’t floating on my little raft in the present; there were bridges that led over to solid ground. Yes, the past is another country, but one that we can visit, and once there we can bring back the things we need. ...

There’s a lot of talk about the tame world versus the wild world. It is not only a wild nature that we need as human beings; it is the untamed open space of our imaginations.

Reading is where the wild things are.”

For anyone who has struggled from time to time to fit into the mold of normalcy, this book has much to offer. It's not an easy read, but the painful moments are offset by her beautifully worded insights.

Coming to Winterson's writing by way of non-fiction I find myself very much looking forward to reading her extensive writings in fiction.

( )
  BarbKBooks | Aug 15, 2022 |
How can a memoir be so intensely heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time? And also poignantly funny and full of extraordinary language? Too much in this book resonates with me – I could read it over and over again. A little more breathtakingly honest than Oranges are not the only Fruit, if you can imagine that, it’s more to the story of adoption, abandonment and embracing of self as only she can tell it. ( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (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)

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jeanette Wintersonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Eliot, T. S.Authorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sexton, AnneAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Polman, MaartenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my three mothers:
Constance Winterson
Ruth Rendell
Ann S
First words
When my mother was angry with me, which was often, she said, 'The Devil led us to the wrong crib.'
When love is unreliable and you are a child, you assume that it is the nature of love - its quality - to be unreliable. Children do not find fault with their parents until later. In the beginning the love you get is the love that sets.

Me he dado cuénta de que hacer lo más inteligente solo es una buena idea cuando se trata de decisiones pequeñas. Para las cosas que te cambian la vida hay que arriesgarse.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Memories of the author about her difficult childhood as the adopted daughter of an English mother with strong religious convictions, and her subsequent search for her biological mother.

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