Book Review: Why be happy when you could be normal? by Jeanette Winterson.


Book Review: Why be happy when you could be normal?

Jeanette Winterson’s novels have established her as a major figure in world literature.

She has written some of the most admired books of the past few decades, including her internationally bestselling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents that is now often required reading in contemporary fiction.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a memoir about a life’s work to find happiness.

It’s a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in an north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition; about the Universe as Cosmic Dustbin.

It is the story of how a painful past that Jeanette thought she’d written over and repainted rose to haunt her, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother.

Book Details

Format: 230 pages, Hardcover

Published: March 6, 2012 by Knopf Canada

ISBN: 9780307401243 (ISBN10: 0307401243)

Language: English

Literary awards: Judy Grahn Award Nominee (2013)Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir/Biography (2013)Andrew Carnegie Medal Nominee for Nonfiction (2013)

Original title: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Setting: EnglandAccrington, Lancashire (United Kingdom)

My Review of Why be happy when you could be normal?

This is an autobiography, where Jeanette talks about her life, childhood and belonging.

Having been adopted into a dysfunctional family of a woman who is depressive, a religious fanatic, who sees religion as a punishment to offenders rather than a means of salvation, and a weak father, she has a hard time growing up.

Her adopted mother is always at war with the world, because she hates the world, and has never considered Jeanette as someone to love. But how can she love her, when she doesn’t even love herself?

Book Review: Why be happy when you could be normal?

Jeanette says they’re living like refugees in their home, because her mum doesn’t care about anyone, and her dad doesn’t talk about the maltreatment, maybe because he’s weak, or maybe because he wants peace to reign.

So it’s always silence and neglect. The paranoid and depressed mother does not care about the welfare of anyone in their little family, and her overly quiet father always turns a blind eye to everything happening in his home.

As a kid, Jeanette doesn’t know what it means to be loved, to be accepted. She describes adoption as forever missing some parts of your story, because you’re dropped in the middle.

And no matter how much you try, you can never know your full story, the part that existed before you were introduced to the one you now know.

But adoption drops you into the story after it has started. It’s like reading a book with the first few pages missing…

Jeanette Winterson, Why be happy when you could be normal?

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Book Review: Why be happy when you could be normal?

She takes solace in books and reading, as she would hide and read and read, till she becomes weary of reading. Reading becomes her only companion. This is when she discovers that a whole different world exists in books, and that she is not alone.

Here’s what she says about literature,

Creative work bridges time because the energy of art is not time-bound. If it were we should have no interest in the art of the past, except as history or documentary.

But our interest in art is our interest in ourselves both now and always. Here and forever. There is a sense of the human spirit always existing. This makes our own death bearable. Life + art is a boisterous communion/communication with the dead. It is a boxing match with time.

Jeanette Winterson, Why be happy when you could be normal?

She continues to bury herself in books, till her mother finds out and burns all her books.

Jeanette neither loves nor hates her mother. She refers to her as “a monster, but my monster…”

This book tells a story of a girl who struggles to belong, to be loved, to be accepted and who finds out that reading and writing could be her saving grace. She also finds out she’s gay later in life.

Book Review: Why be happy when you could be normal?

This is an important book that I would recommend for everyone. The storytelling is raw and real, and there is so much to learn about literature and why telling your story is important.

Have you read the book? What do you think about it? Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on all social media platforms. Thank you for visiting Bookish Pixie.

Why be happy when you could be normal?
Why be happy when you could be normal?

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