Monday, May 7, 2012

Why Be Normal When You Could Be Happy?

It's a bit difficult when you read a memoir and are rather bored with it. I picked up Why Be Normal When You Could Be Happy by Jeanette Winterson because I liked the title and it had received quite a lot of praise. I've never read any of her novels before, and I think this memoir might be better suited to those who have and are interested in learning more about what's true of the author herself since her books apparently highly autobiographical.

Unfortunately, the book just fell flat for me. Winterson has had a difficult and interesting life, yet she somehow made her life story rather boring. Perhaps it's part of being British - she's very dry and recounts the craziness of her mother as if she reading a grocery list. An American would have dramatized everything, described every last detail of being locked outside a child and forced to sleep on a cold damp stoop, with no pillows or blankets or coverings, worrying about bugs crawling over you as you try to sleep. Instead, she just states that her mother used to lock her out and she would have to sleep on the porch. Moving on now.

While for her own mental health I think this attitude is probably best and it appears that she's moved on, quite frankly it doesn't make for a compelling story to read. I didn't even get the sense of hope that should come from recovering from abuse. Her writing style plays into this - she doesn't make transitions. She just jumps from paragraph to paragraph, topic to topic. Perhaps this comes from avoiding problems; she can just change the topic when she no longer wants to think of something. It didn't make me want to read any of her other works since I wasn't a fan of her writing style, and I also thought it was weird how many autobiographic elements she uses in her novels, even naming the main character in her first novel Jeanette and giving her basically the same story. Then she seemed surprised that people wanted to compare the novel to her life. What did she think was going to happen? So, I would recommend skipping this one unless you're already a fan of Winterson's works.

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