Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

by Jeanette Winterson
3.5 34


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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

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.

Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging—for love, identity, home, and a mother.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802120106
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 03/06/2012
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Born in Manchester in 1959 and adopted into a firmly religious family, Jeanette Winterson put herself through higher education and studied at Oxford University. She is the author of numerous novels, including Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Sexing the Cherry, and The Passion. Winterson lives in Gloucestershire, UK.

Visit her website at jeanettewinterson.com

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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some aspects of this raw, and beautifully written memoir are devastating: an adoptive mother who is a religious fanatic who cannot receive, or give, love, and an adoptive father too sidelined to do much to counterbalance this formidable force. But this memoir is not concerned with the chronological recounting of horrors made all the more grim by their every day occurrence. Instead, representative details and key moments are revealed so that the author might spend most of her time reflecting on how she forged her identity, and made herself whole in the absence of her adoptive mother's love, and in this aspect, this work--and the spirit behind it--are luminous and triumphant. Fascinating exploration of the tension between Winterson's fury at being landed in her adoptive family, but also being glad, in a way, because that was what she had, and from what she fled to make herself whole. Moving meditation on love--how actually it can be hard to love, and be loved, if you have been mothered in a way that is wanting, and how deeply each of us need to feel we belong, and see our true selves reflected lovingly back to us in our mother's eyes. Relatively short book, but intense, with some absolutely stunning, gorgeous prose.
AMedel More than 1 year ago
Boring, too much 'fluff', not enough stories of her life as a memoir should have. I make it a rule to not make up my mind about a book until after I have read the first 100 pages. Getting through the first 100 pages (and the subsequent 67) was tedious and aggrivating. I truly enjoy reading memoirs, learning about other people's lives through their own self reflection and experience. Ms. Winterson, however, spent a vast majority of her book quoting the works of other great authors and poets rather than telling her own story. Her continuous and superfluous references to other masters in the craft of writing was aggrivating. Had I wanted to read Elliot or Stein, I would have purchased one of THEIR books and not hers. She ruined the truly remarkable tale of her survival in an abusive home and her accomplishments by not being genuine and using other writers to tell you how she felt. Toward the beginning of the book, it felt as though she were writing a sales pitch for her other works (namely Oranges are Not The Only Fruit), which I may very well have purchased had she not outlined the entire novel while trying to sell it in her memoir.
JadeWant More than 1 year ago
This is quite a memoir! It is more of the author’s explanation of how she dealt with her terrifying life that influenced her growing up. She was adopted by a woman obsessed with religion and most certainly mentally ill. She grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s among the hard-working poor. Looking back over thirty, forty years, she seems to have miraculously found some forgiveness for the woman apparently incapable of love. She relives brief insightful moments of her childhood. She reveals how she could not love anyone, or even befriend a classmate, despite desperately needing someone. She couldn’t allow love in…numb to it. It's a book for those who struggle with belonging and fear closeness especially after abuse. I am sure writing this book was cathartic for her. I hope it helped her. This is not one I would care to reread but I am glad for the experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jeanette Winterson has some wonderful sentences, but not enough to sustain a book-length work. This memoir needs organization and a good editor.
Reneethewriter More than 1 year ago
I am almost finished reading this book, and I have yet to reach the fascinating part of the story. Jeanette Winterson is a good writer, no doubt, but this memoir just plods along. Her references to her other books within the text also gets to be quite annoying. We get it, you've written other books. That doesn't make this one any more entertaining.
debvanz More than 1 year ago
I read this book for my book club, but was seriously disappointed in it. With only a few bright spots, it was an extremely long bout of "oh poor pitiful me." In the author's defense, she did have a very rotten childhood. Her adopted mother was abusive, often locking her (as a young child) outside on the front porch or in a coal bin. However, although Winterson claims to have found happiness, it doesn't really show up in this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I now want to read all her books. Very hard to put this book down. A must read for every young woman Searching for her life not someone elses life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an edgy, sharply honest story, (worts and all )  filled with insight and understanding. If Winterson had not decided that she was the mistress of her own ship, her story could have turned out very differently. Winterson's memoir is an emphatic reminder that no matter what, each of us CAN earn our own autonomy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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dave61 More than 1 year ago
The book was a quick easy read while not as straight forward and tear jerking as some memoirs it was an interesting blend of her story and relevant literary works of others. Those wee appropriate considering the impact literature had on Jeanette's life and it's positive outcome. This book was the first of hers I read and I will read another. Yes there are more gut wrenching stories out there but this one is heartfelt and well done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was hoping for more from this book. I was disappointed. There were few parts that i actually enjoyed. My favorite part was when it was over.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best I've read in years. She has a beautiful way of exploring complex concepts, I read several pages aloud to student groups.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Author bares her soul looking at how she grew up and possible reasons for her unique perspective on life. Knowledge of literature really adds to the story. Very well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For those of you who appreciate the ebbs and flows of Winterson's work, this is the book for you. Fragmented thoughts, moments of joy and fear, this is what makes Winterson the writer and the woman that she is. I adored this book and only wish that she had embraced more of her life than she did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
More of a disfunctional family than a story of a gay person.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Jeanette Winterson wrote a critically acclaimed novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, loosely based on her life growing up in a Northern England industrial town. Her memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, is the non-fiction version of that story. The looming figure in both books is Winterson's adopted mother, who is always referred to in the book as Mrs. Winterson. Her parents were Pentecostal and her mother raised Jeanette to become a missionary.  Mrs. Winterson was abusive, frequently locking Jeanette out of the house overnight, leaving her to freeze on the porch steps. During those long nights, it was books that saved young Jeanette. That was where she fell in love with language and books, and where she found truth, beauty and security in her lonely existence. Books saved her sanity and her life. Mrs. Winterson spent much of her time at church meetings, and was always angry and disappointed in Jeanette. At the age of sixteen, Jeanette told her mother that she was in love with a woman and Mrs. Winterson uttered the phrase that became the book's title, "Why be happy when you can be normal?". The fact that she was adopted affected her as well. Her mother wanted a boy and she finds some papers in her mother's things that confuse her. As expected, the confrontation with Mrs. Winterson about this does not go well. Jeanette decided to try and find her birth mother and that journey is interesting. She searches long and hard and eventually finds her mother, although her own reaction to meeting her mother is much more complicated than she imagines. Winterson's memoir, with its poetic language, gives hope to people who feel that they are different from everyone else around them, that life is too difficult. It can help them to find their own voice as she found hers. One of the passages I marked is this one:"A tough life needs a tough language- and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers- a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn't a hiding place. It is a finding place."Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? is a beautiful finding place for those who feel lost too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanted this book to speak to me... wanted to feel something! But instead i just could not wait to be done with it. This book is only 167 pages long and got good about page 150 and got boring again around page 160!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved reading this book, as much of it is relatable to my own life. Very brave of Ms. W to put this story out there in the world so that those of us who can relate may feel less alone in our experiences in the world.