Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

October 27, 2011

In 1985 Jeanette Winterson’s first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published.

It was Jeanette’s version of the story of a terraced house in Accrington, an adopted child, and the thwarted giantess Mrs Winterson.

It was a cover story, a painful past written over and repainted. It was a story of survival.

This book is that story’s the silent twin

It is full of hurt and humour and a fierce love of life. It is about the pursuit of happiness, about lessons in love, the search for a mother and a journey into madness and out again. It is generous, honest and true.

‘Unforgettable… It’s the best book I have ever read about the cost of growing up’ Sunday Times

‘This book is good, sensible, beautiful company… Try this’ A.L. Kennedy Week

‘This is certainly the most moving book of Winterson’s I have ever read… but it wriggles with humour… At one point I was crying so much I had tears in my ears. There is much here that is impressive, but what I find most unusual about it is the way it deepens one’s sympathy, for everyone involved’ Zoe Williams Guardian

‘A searingly felt and expressed autobiography…Funny and profoundly hopeful – a tale of survival’ Metro

‘Vivid, unpredictable, and sometimes mind-rattling memoir… This book – which had been funny enough to make me laugh out loud more times than is advisable on the No 12 bus – turns into something raw and unnerving’ Julie Myerson Observer

In 2009 my father died. Clearing out his possessions I found some old bits of paper about my adoption. These were upsetting and intriguing. I decided to follow the trail.

Mrs Winterson had invented so many mothers – bad mothers, mad mothers, drunk mothers, drugged mothers, dead mothers – I had always thought my birth mother was dead. Now it seemed she might not be.

While I was doing my detective work I wrote everything down, because the process was upsetting and I kept forgetting things – or losing things. Obviously about psychic rupture.

At the same time I started to think again about WintersonWorld. I hadn’t looked at that material for 27years – not since Oranges in 1985, and Oranges is a novel.

But the words were in my head so fast I could hardly get them written down – and in 2 weeks I had 15,000 words.

It was clear that a book was coming through and that I had to follow it.

As a writer I think you have to be faithful to what happens – not censor yourself, not censure yourself. Write it as best you can, believe in what you write, and if it has power, then publish it. If it’s weak, throw it away. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? had tremendous energy. There was no choice really. It had to happen.

Publication: 12th April 2012

Publisher: Vintage