Years ago I was captivated by Jeannette Winterson's second novel The Passion. I remember her being a magical story teller, so I was intrigued and excited that she had a memoir published this year. Apparently, her first novel, the wildly popular Oranges are Not the Only Fruit was semi-autobiographical, so this memoir slightly resembles the early novel. Winterson was adopted as a baby and raised by an evangelical Christian who had a hard time expressing love. Winterson became estranged from her mother as a teen when she came out as a lesbian.
Jeannette Winterson has an amazing voice. It feels utterly unique. I can't compare her to anyone. The narrative did not follow a normal chronological order. There was a loose idea of time but mostly the memoir was organized on themes: church, literature, her home town. Within each chapter she would tell a story about her childhood but also talk about art or religion or literature and how it changed or affected her. I found a profound moment when she waxed philosophical about the necessity for poetry: tough language for tough times.
The memoir is laced with Winterson's feelings of abandonment and loss and adoption, as well as, her struggles and inability to love that she blames on the childhood she had which was devoid of real love. We also see how literature and poetry in particular is what saves her. During the last third of the book, Winterson makes her way through the British legal system to find out the name of her biological mother and finally, after 50 years, meet her.
If you like memoir or just want to read a different voice...Check this out. Oh, and what great title, eh?