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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? | [Jeanette Winterson]

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

When Jeanette Winterson left home at 16 because she was in love with a woman, Mrs. Winterson asked her: "Why be happy when you could be normal?" This book is the story of a life's work to find happiness. It is the story of how the painful past returned to haunt Jeanette's later life, and send her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her real mother. It is also a book about other people's stories, showing how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life raft which supports us when we are sinking.
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Publisher's Summary

Shortlisted for: UK Author of the year - Specsavers National Book Awards 2012

When Jeanette Winterson, author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, left home at 16 because she was in love with a woman, Mrs. Winterson asked her: "Why be happy when you could be normal?" This book is the story of a life's work to find happiness. It is the story of how the painful past returned to haunt Jeanette's later life, and send her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her real mother. It is also a book about other people's stories, showing how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life raft which supports us when we are sinking.

©2011 Jeannette Winterson (P)2012 AudioGO Ltd

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  •  
    YorkshireTyke York, United Kingdom 23/12/2012
    YorkshireTyke York, United Kingdom 23/12/2012 Member Since 2012

    I enjoy listening to Tolkien, G.R.R.Martin, Dickens and all kinds of things. I spend credits on fat books.

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    "Oranges Is Not The Only Book"

    Like many people my age (about the same age as Jeanette Winterson), I read 'Oranges' when it was first published all those years ago, and loved it. But somehow read no more of Ms Winterson's output until I picked up "Why Be Happy" after seeing the TV programme with Alan Yentob, the other week.



    I was not disappointed. Loved it, in fact. Better still, reading it has made me want to go out and read Ms Winterson's other books. She paints a complex picture of the redoubtable Mrs W, highlighting the fact she may not have even had the writing career she went on to have without Mrs W's monstrous creation - of herself. And ultimately, there is a touching, strange loyalty to Mrs W. This book has maturity and complexity, and tries to blur the line between fiction and autobiography - something touching about the fact the writer wants to do that, too.



    I normally stick to meaty slabs of books on Audible that give value for money, so it says something for the power of the writer and writing here, that I spent my money on something slighter (I mean physically not a mighty tome, as opposed to slight in content, as it is not at all sketchy).



    Great book; an insight into what makes a writer, and how we construct our identities. This is that rare thing; a book that stays with you, always.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M Kilwinning, United Kingdom 11/12/2012
    M Kilwinning, United Kingdom 11/12/2012 Member Since 2009
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    "The biography of a talented outsider"

    This was a moving account of an indomitable and spirited individual, whose childhood shaped her for both better and for worse. I have never been drawn to the author's fiction, but this biography is worth reading for several reasons. Firstly, it is well written and well read, by the author. Secondly, it gives poignant insights into a particular northern lifestyle of the fifties and sixties, one where the values and norms of the day seem like a distant history lesson. And, thirdly, it is entertaining. I found the non-linear style different to most autobiographies, but it worked quite well and covered up for omissions of quite large periods of Janette's life. It was a little as if she was pulling jigsaw pieces out of a bag and showing you them. Some pieces of the picture joined up, some bits came together at different times. And in some places there were holes that were never filled in. She has kept some pieces of the jigsaw in the bag, perhaps she will reveal them later.

    If you like reading biographies, then you are likely to like this one.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kerrymay Emsworth 03/08/2012
    kerrymay Emsworth 03/08/2012 Member Since 2008
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    "Genuine writer/reader"

    I loved listening to Jeanette telling her own story. She has a really interesting regional accent mixed with a more southern clipped vowels. I would say that there was a heavier emphasis on philosophy and a lot more musing - if you're expecting a 'what happened next' you will be disappointed.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Clare Newton abbott, United Kingdom 20/05/2012
    Clare Newton abbott, United Kingdom 20/05/2012

    very eclectic taste in audio books. I especially like the soulful and challenging of the hegemony!

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    "haunting and yet affectionate..."

    This carries you along with speed. It has dramatic eloquence and is poignant as well as passionate. Not for the faint hearted, although searingly it inspires optimism. I found myself crying out to someone the other day "I want to be happy not normal." This account has made the clearest case for a creative response to oppression!

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bookie UK 31/12/2013
    Bookie UK 31/12/2013 Member Since 2013
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    "Gut wrenching honesty"
    Would you listen to Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? again? Why?

    It's revealing, frank and emotionally demanding at times. But ultimately a tale of hope and achievement.


    What other book might you compare Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? to, and why?

    Ms Winterson is a singular author with a sharp and distinct intellect and narrative style. Her autobiography is a stand alone .


    What does Jeanette Winterson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    I'm a little older than Ms Winterson. I had an ordinary upbringing but had no idea that the social deprivation recounted was common in parts of 1970s Britain. She adds human warmth to a life which was, at best, difficult and makes little of her hardships.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. Parts are emotionally demanding. I listened to it over three evenings and that gave me time to absorb and reflect.


    Any additional comments?

    There were times during this account when I had to do a reality check and remember that the story was taking place in the mid 1970s north west of England, not Late Victorian times. The social and emotional deprivation beggars belief. But that makes the account all the more heart warming. Despite every adversity, emotional, physical and mental abuse, Ms Winterson stood by the truth and values she knew were right for her.

    At times, it's difficult to listen to. Ms Winterson is frank about the hardships she suffered. But it's a balanced view, interspersed with humour and positive experience. Her achievements as an individual and as an author of international renown show that it's possible to overcome all adversity if you dig your heels in hard enough. I have the greatest respect for anyone who can recount a tale of brutality, hardship and loss and leave the reader feeling positive. The background has whetted my appetite for a couple of her books which I haven't yet read and will put them into context. As an autobiography, this rates as one of my all time best.There were times during this account when I had to do a reality check and remember that the story was taking place in the mid 1970s north west of England, not Late Victorian times. The social and emotional deprivation beggars belief. But that makes the account all the more heart warming. Despite every adversity, emotional, physical and mental abuse, Ms Winterson stood by the truth and values she knew were right for her.

    At times, it's difficult to listen to. Ms Winterson is frank about the hardships she suffered. But it's a balanced view, interspersed with humour and positive experience. Her achievements as an individual and as an author of international renown show that it's possible to overcome all adversity if you dig your heels in hard enough. I have the greatest respect for anyone who can recount a tale of brutality, hardship and loss and leave the reader feeling positive. The background has whetted my appetite for a couple of her books which I haven't yet read and will put them into context. As an autobiography, this rates as one of my all time best.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    cath 13/04/2013
    cath 13/04/2013 Member Since 2010
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    "Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?"

    This is an interesting sequel to "Oranges are not the only fruit" and at times is equally hilarious. The author has the capacity to portray a quite appalling childhood and sequaelae without self pity, and in such a way that you begin to understand the troubled personalities of her adoptive parents. It is a book about what shaped today's society, and a stark reminder that "normal" can be barking mad. Well worth a read, and quite inspirational, whatever you gender, sexual preferences or state of sanity!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MsRanPan UK 29/12/2012
    MsRanPan UK 29/12/2012 Member Since 2011

    I really enjoy reading but don't have the time so audible is a perfect solution, listen while doing boring tasks.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Try this"

    I struggled with 'Oranges' and had heard of some of JW other works and always intended to return to it/them. I decided to give this a listen and I am so glad I did, she's has had an interesting life and has a fantastic and honest view of life which was refreshing and gave me cause to reflect on my own ways of thinking - something I like to come out of reading a book but is a rare thing. It also peaked my interest in her other books and in a way eased me into her writing style as well as making me more willing to work with it now I have an understanding of it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    23/12/2012
    23/12/2012 Member Since 2006
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    "thoroughly absorbing"

    This is an honest and forthright account of Jeanette's life, her childhood and her eventual search for her birth mother. Some of the incidents, such as being put out on the doorstep were not unusual when I was growing up, so I related to the matter of fact way she related these childhood experiences. I tend to listen to books while in my car, this one, I listened to at every opportunity. I'd not seen or read 'Oranges', although I had heard of it. It's now on my list of things to read/watch at the next opportunity. Jeanette is a brave woman who has done much to promote the emancipation of women, and this book illustrates the pathway that led her there.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arthur Gympie, Australia 09/08/2012
    Arthur Gympie, Australia 09/08/2012 Member Since 2010
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    "Whats wrong with Being Happy ? !!"

    I dont know what attracted me to buying this book !!, I'd never even heard of Jeanette befor. However, what a BRILLIANT, BRILLIANT read. This is a very, different read which flows from an extreemly difficult childhood biography into a search for her birth parents. I really must find some more of Jeanette's stuff, especially 'Oranges'.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    iris Paris, France 12/03/2014
    iris Paris, France 12/03/2014 Member Since 2011
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    "Only reproach is that there is just not enough!"

    This is a splendid and honest account by the author of her search for her biological parent and her musings upon what might have been and how her discovery puts her adopted parents into perspective. Her account is witty as you would expect from the author of 'Oranges are Not the Only Fruit' and her reflections on the creative process and writing are very interesting and give us an insight into fictional truth. I can highly reccommend this book but I just wish it had been far longer - the six and something hours just sailed by. If Mrs W, the author's adopted mother, had not existed it would have been necessary to invent her. She is an unforgettable character in spite of all her failings - there is something almost tragic about her.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 16 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • cath
    Cardiff, Australia
    02/07/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Sharing her story"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? to be better than the print version?

    the audio version is better for me as I am dyslexic and having an audio version brings books to me I would otherwise find difficult to read


    What did you like best about this story?

    that she was sharing her story


    Have you listened to any of Jeanette Winterson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    no - I would love to hear oranges but you do not have it available


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    laugh and cry - made me appreaciate my family


    Any additional comments?

    would love to listen to the book she refered to Oranges are not the only fruit

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • H. Gladman
    Australia
    08/05/13
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    Story
    "Superb"
    Would you listen to Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? again? Why?

    I actually listened to this twice and read the book in paperback. Enormous Jeanette Winterson fan and to have her reading it was just the most wonderful treat.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    It was short enough I knocked it over in a couple of sittings.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Chandon
    Paris, France
    01/02/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An emotional roller coaster ...."
    What would have made Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? better?

    I was really excited when WBHWYCBN was selected for the Book Club because I truly loved the title. They say you do judge a book by its cover so me I was onto the book before even started it. The book title really resonates with me. The while reading I find out how hard it was, how complex it was!
    To pin down what this book was even exactly about is difficult in itself. So it’s a book about Jeanette Winterson’s adopted mother, and then her eventual search to find her biological one. Sure. But it’s also about a million other things. I was even unable to ask basics questions about : Which themes struck me the most? Mrs. Winterson and her exorcism and book burning? English Literature A-Z and the power it gave Jeanette? The “lost loss” of adoption? Or the countless meditations on love, love, love — giving it, receiving it, deserving it?
    Then I decided to relax and take this story as her journey to understanding herself, where she came from, with Mrs. Winterson as the main antagonist. To me, the most hopeful thing about the book is how with time Jeanette came to understand Mrs. Winterson (and her father), and, by extension, herself.
    Jeanette Winterson's style threw me a couple of times. This book is written in a style I don't particularly like. Sometimes I liked but then the next page could just throw me again. I do understand the complicated mess that is the relationship with Mrs. Winterson.
    All that I remember about this book is that messy relationship and self-discovery. Jeanette’s style made it hard for me to remember the story; I was lost most of the time. The book didn't hook me, it took me nearly 2 weeks to finish it and normally, when I like a book it takes about 2 days for I finish it.... It all comes down to style, this is a style I don't like and can't describe whatsoever, but I'm sure there are plenty of people who like this.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    did not like the reader ... it was hard to focus and folow


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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