Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

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The shocking, heart-breaking - and often very funny - true story behind Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

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

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.

Available Formats

  • Paperback
    $19.99 RRP
    ISBN: 9780099556091
    Published: 01/05/2012
    Imprint: Vintage
    Extent: 240 pages
  • eBook
    ISBN: 9781446402115
    Published: 01/10/2011
    Imprint: Vintage Digital
    Extent: 240 pages
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"Winterson has rarely been interested in linear narrative; she moves between different periods in the past and present within each chapter...This structure and her searing honesty are a powerful combination." - Rosemarie Milsom, Newcastle Herald

"Unforgettable… It’s the best book I have ever read about the cost of growing up." - Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times

"A searingly felt and expressed autobiography…Funny and profoundly hopeful – a tale of survival" - Kate Hamer, Metro

"This book is good, sensible, beautiful company… Try this" - A.L. Kennedy, Week

"Jeanette Winterson’s writing is poetic, emotive and beautiful" - So Many Books So Little Time (blog)

"Vivid, unpredictable, and sometimes mind-rattling memoir... This book... which had been funny enough to make me laugh out loud more times than is advisable on the No 12 bus - turns into something raw and unnerving" - Julie Myerson, Observer

"This is certainly the most moving book of Winterson's I have ever read... but it wriggles with humour... At one point I was crying so much I had tears in my ears. There is much here that is impressive, but what I find most unusual about it is the way it deepens one's sympathy, for everyone involved" - Zoe Williams, Guardian

"In the 26 years since the publication of her highly acclaimed first novel, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson has proved herself a writer of startling invention, originality and style. Her combination of the magical and the earthy, the rapturous and the matter-of-fact, is unique. It is a strange and felicitous gift, as if the best of Gabriel Garcia Marquez was combined with the best of Alan Bennett... This remarkable account is, among other things, a powerful argument for reading... This memoir is brave and beautiful, a testament to the forces of intelligence, heart and imagination. It is a marvellous book and generous one" - Spectator

"Both inspiring and appalling, its cruellest details only made digestible by the restrained elegance of Winterson's prose" - Independent on Sunday

"An essential new book... she is a natural memoirist. The first half is a mature retelling of her masterwork, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit... The second half is a wry, urgent account of her hunt for her birth mother... Pressed on by the need for self discovery, the prose doesn't miss a beat... it feels risky and alive" - Evening Standard

Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson OBE was born in Manchester. Adopted by Pentecostal parents she was raised to be a missionary. This did and didn't work out.

Discovering early the power of books she left home at 16 to live in a Mini and get on with her education. After graduating from Oxford University she worked for a while in the theatre and published her first novel at 25. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is based on her own upbringing but using herself as a fictional character. She scripted the novel into a BAFTA-winning BBC drama. 27 years later she re-visited that material in the bestselling memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? She has written 10 novels for adults, as well as children's books, non-fiction and screenplays. She writes regularly for the Guardian. She lives in the Cotswolds in a wood and in Spitalfields, London.

She believes that art is for everyone and it is her mission to prove it.