Here it is bring out the trumpets, fanfare galore I’ve read the first one on my list!!
This is not my first Winterson Novel, I am slightly in love with the variety of work she produces. I adore the touches of queer romance that appears over and over again. I also find myself excited and brought something new with every novel I read. In short, I am a big fan of this woman. Though it may have something to do with the first novel I read, the Stone Gods which has lesbian robots in it. But that’s a story for another day.
Right so where do we begin really, this novel follows the story of a young man in the search of a dancer because he believes he is in love with her. It is also the story of his mother who is a giantess who honestly is one of the most entertaining characters I’ve read for a longtime. This is also a novel which does its best to rewrite fairytales, greek myth, and flit through time. Honestly, I’d say its done rather enjoyably, although alas, my attention did start to drift by the end of the novel.
However my favourite part of the novel is the rewriting of the Twelve Princesses. I’m referring to the Twelve Princesses whom escape every night to dance holes into their slippers and appear exhausted the next morning. Ultimately a Prince does not drink their sleeping draught and he catches them in the act and gets to marry any of his choosing. All in all Winterson’s re-imagination of the traditional story had me enthralled.
Winterson has the Princesses find each other after they have been married off to the Prince’s brothers. Eleven of them tell their tale, the twelfth of course being the woman, Jordan, the young man, is searching for is absent. There is betrayal, loss, longing, escape, there’s even love denied. Honestly the romantic in me just completely fell in love with some of the lines in his novel. So I’ve quoted them for you, so you can see the magic of Winterson’s writing.
“Why could he not turn his life towards me, as trees though troubled by the wind yet continue in the path of the sun?” p51
The above quote is from one of the sisters who’s lover marries her only so his liaisons with other women are more exciting. This ruins her expectations of marriage, although she attempts the happiness she so wishes.
“He looked surprised, I don’t know why. As your lover describes you, so you are.” p56
The above quote is from one of the sisters who’s lover convinces her she is a fierce wild animal, chaining her up etc. and is then surprised as she kills him.
“I loved him and I was in love with him. I didn’t use language to make a war-zone of my heart.” p57
And this quotation is from one of the sisters who’s lover is having an affair and tells her about it and expects more of a reaction than the one he receives.
Winterson really niggles down at the kinds of love people have for one another and the reactions that they might face in circumstance. For example, Jordan’s Mother see’s that he is desperate to travel:
“I saw the look on Jordan’s face and my heart became a captive in a locked room. I couldn’t reach him now. I knew he would go.” p71
There is something effortless in the way Winterson wordsmiths and something incredibly human. Its almost poetic but done so effortlessly it reminds me very much of another of her novels Written on the Body.
“My own heart, like this wild place, has never been visited, and I do not know whether it could sustain life.” p80
And honestly that is the last one. If you want anymore you are going to have to read the novel and find your own lines that tug at your heart strings. There’s not much else I can say about this novel, I really enjoyed it, I found the writing left me salivating for more. The characterisation was unbelievably clear and crisp to the point that I believe I will be carrying Jordan’s Mother around in my head for years to come. It wasn’t a labour to read, although of course its taken me longer than it should have as I’ve been distracted.
This is a novel that tries to do a lot, of course, as you’d expect from Winterson. It’s trying to defy liner time and be an unsettling paradox. Its a very similar idea that she revisits in the Stone Gods. Which I believe is also executed better in the Stone Gods. As for story telling, Winterson excels. This novel is made up of lots of chunks of other stories, in that respect it is very much like her other novels Lighthouse Keeping and the Passion and to some degree Oranges are not the only Fruit.
However this novel stands well alone. Its enjoyable, its beautiful and surprising at times and I highly recommend it. This novel is without a doubt on my re-read list.
Other Winterson novels I have read: The Stone Gods, the Passion, Lighthouse Keeping, Oranges are not the only Fruit, Written on the Body.