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Sunday, 13 January 2013

Why be Happy when you could be Normal?

So I think I'll start the newish year with this cover picture of Jeanette Winterson's biographical book, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal.

It's a book about Jeanette Winterson coming of age while living with her adopted mother: an evangelical christian who hates sex, life and her lesbian daughter. It's about much more than that really and is a lovely book.

Over New Year, I met somebody who was brought up in an evangelical ( and he equated evangelical with hypocritical) family, and escaped them as soon as was possible. Winterson's book resonated with him. It was true to him.

Winterson used to have quite a high media profile in the UK (she was on the Review Show every other week when the Review Show was good - full of annoying-in-a-good-way cultural commentators). I found her massively annoying for all sorts of irrelevant reasons. What is interesting is how my opinion of her has changed since reading Why be Happy...

She has suddenly become much more likeable, with a brutal honesty that cuts to raw. It's an honesty that is apparent in the cover picture of the book, of Winterson on the beach at Morecambe ( I guess). She was abused as a child, locked in the proverbial coal bunker and made to sleep outside the house. I love the way her family album smile contrasts with the claw-like hands that are gripping the beach ball. She's so stiff, awkward and insect-like, a product of the mother who never loved her, who told her that the devil put her in the crib, and how great things would have been if she had adopted a boy.

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