Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Paperback Book

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Paperback

4 out of 5 (8 ratings)


In 1985 Jeanette Winterson's first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published.

It was Jeanette's version of the story of a terraced house in Accrington, an adopted child, and the thwarted giantess Mrs Winterson.

It was a cover story, a painful past written over and repainted.

It was a story of survival. This book is that story's the silent twin. It is full of hurt and humour and a fierce love of life.

It is about the pursuit of happiness, about lessons in love, the search for a mother and a journey into madness and out again.

It is generous, honest and true.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Autobiography: literary
  • ISBN: 9780099556091

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Showing 1 - 5 of 8 reviews.

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Review by

A very readable book, but not an easy read.Looking back, it is almost 20 years since I read Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, so my memory of that fictionalised version of Jeanette Winterson's life story is only vague. This retelling as autobiography is very interesting, as it is such a story of success against the odds, and yet that is not the story being told, but the story of discovery of who Jeanette Winterson feels she is as a person and her search for love.I had already read several segments of this in The Times, and they work better for being part of this whole work. There are also digressions and short rants about specific issues, but they feel part of the whole.There are some lovely amusing moments in this story and some very uncomfortable moments, but it is all beautifully told.It also feels very brave and honest. What more could you want in an autobiography than something that is brave and honest, beautifully told.

Review by

A very entertaining memoir about he writer's horrific childhood with an adopted mother who was obviously "raving mad". Her triumph over this childhood, overcoming depression, breakdown and mental illness to become a successful writer and delightful person,judging by TV interviews, is to be admired.

Review by

I am completely and totally overwhelmed! I have found a soulmate. Some of the things she´s written could have come from me (if I had had her skill...) Oh, how she writes about love, and loss, and loneliness. I cry even as I write this now. It´s amazing that she dared to write this book - she is so naked and vulnerable, but that is of course part of what makes it good literature. And the way she writes of what reading meant and means to her! And how she describes the feeling of security when being surrounded by books ( I know, know!) This book was written for me! Thank you!

Review by

At the moment I seem to be drawn to reading either 'dysfunctional childhood memoirs' or 'horrific WWII experiences' books - this book is clearly in the former group. Extremely well-written and insightful I really felt the author's pain and confusion as she tried to make sense of her life. I felt so sad for her that she chose not to integrate more with her birth family when she found them and also sad that her childhood experiences had very negatively affected her ability to build and nurture relationships as an adult. But I did love to read about how important the local public library was to her and how she worked her way through "English literature A-Z" in alphabetic order!

Review by

A disappointing autobiography covering Winterson's childhood (Oranges period) and most recent years around the time of her breakdown and omitting most of her adult life. It includes an interesting account of working class life in 1950s Accrington and the shocking practices of the Elim Pentecostal church and her adoptive mother, Mrs Winterson. Readability is compromised by Winterson's constant philosophising - which is rather crammed in at every opportunity. In some parts of the book you can't read a single page without pausing to decipher a Winterson pronouncement on life, the universe and everything. Less of this would have been more - as it would have given the reader space to consider the points made. Winterson shows a lack of empathy or tolerance to any needs other than her own (e.g. attack on public libraries efforts to become more accessible by stocking mass fiction/DVDs etc as well as great literature).I am a great fan of Winterson's writing but this is far from her best work.

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