This was very gratefully received from Random House/ Vintage Publishing through NetGalley. When I saw it was available for request I was thrilled, it came highly recommended by my mother-in-law (amongst others) but she had said I should read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit first which I did a few months ago (review here).
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is Winterson’s ‘real’ autobiography (as opposed to Oranges which is described as semi-autobiographical). There are two parts to it. Firstly it is concerned with her childhood, adopted by Mrs Winterson a harsh and, in all likelihood, mentally ill religious fanatic who never made Jeanette really feel like she was loved and eventually completely rejected her for her homosexuality. This is the real story which, somehow although you wouldn’t believe it, is so much worse than that told in the novel. The second half of the book looks at her struggle with her mental health and her search for her biological mother. Interspersed with the ‘real life’ are musings on the value of literature, identity, narrative and sanity which are an interesting insight into the mind of the author.
I really enjoyed this. It is fascinating as a companion piece to Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, seeing where the similarities and differences between truth and reality are (and pondering on ‘what is truth anyway?’). Like I said in my review of the novel, I probably could have done without the snippets of myths and fairytales because I was so interested in Jeanette’s story on its own and this is what you get here.