Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal

Winterson, Jeanette

  15 Reviews

Adopted by a fundamentalist Christian family in the north of England, Jeanette Winterson endured a bleak childhood marked by a litany of abuse but made bearable by an early and strong connection to literature. Life became even more difficult when, aged 16, she fell in love with a woman, causing her adoptive mother to pose the question 'why be happy when you could be normal?'

Focusing on her childhood and then the period later in her life when she is searching f or her birth mother, this is an absorbing story, rich in fascinating literary detail and shaped by a painful past and the universal yearning for love and family.

This title is also offered as part of the Narrative Muse Book Club.

Comments from Groups

Generated more discussion than normal. Everyone enjoyed reading this, liked the way it was written and had mixed feelings about how we felt about it. Some were uplifted, others felt sadness. Christchurch 206

Some members loved this book, others struggled with its content. Made for good discussion though. Southbridge 001

An excellent book, worth enduring the harrowing childhood section to have the demonstration of triumph through strength of character and a love of literature. Shows the strong human need to be loved and to belong. Mangaweka 001

Only one person enjoyed the book, others found it interesting. It was well written with some beautiful turns of phrase. She is obviously a very clever woman, if not a somewhat angry one. We felt she used the book to vent a lot of her anger. Personally, I found her a fascinating individual. Auckland 293

Loved it. Very insightful. Jervoistown 001



This book prompted a wonderful discussion. Three members had read it previously and enjoyed re reading. Some members had noted quotes for future reference.
WARK 003
As usual, opinions varied, from enjoyment to boredom, to dislike. Even the dislikers, however, found they admired the writing in some respects, and we had one of our best discussions - wide ranging. We were struck by the similarity of current conditions in New Zealand to those she describes (p 140) to the breakdown of the "welfare state" post WWII under Thatcher.
AUCK 100
The numerous themes in the story generated very interesting discussion. Most of the group found the book stimulating and enjoyed the author's clever turn of phrase and humour.
Those that read it really enjoyed it, and several said that they needed to read it again. There were however about 3 that tried it and just couldn't get into it.
AUCK 162
Our group thought the writing was amazing. Very descriptive and evoking the physical, social, and culture of the time. A very honest and raw account.
CHCH 185
Everyone enjoyed this fascinating biography. Very well-written.
AUCK 038
Some of us found this very bleak, especially at the start. Convincing case argued that this was integral to understanding the rest of the book. All loved the quality of her writing, an especially good example is her description of her descent into madness.
MAST 014
Everyone really enjoyed the book. Some even photocopied pages to read to the group and share re Love and Adoption.
Many of our group found this a difficult story to "get into", because of the style of writing. Undoubtedly a rough childhood story with many themes - we had an interesting discussion.
STEW 001
Loved the use of language to create images of place and people. Very well-written.
AUCK 050
We did not find this book "laugh-out-loud-funny" but did enjoy reading it. Good on the author for turning her life around and achieving what she did achieve. The book was a bit "preachy", and lacked any real inspiration or insights, however Winterson is a good enough writer to keep us reading to the end.
An insightful glimpse into the author's experience of adoption and identity. Would be helpful to have read her book 'Oranges Aren't The Only Fruit'.
WELL 180
Much enjoyed - great discussion questions.
CHCH 099
An inspirational and interesting read. An honest autobiography that showcases the resiliency of the writer, while also conveying the depression and confusion that has arisen from such a traumatic childhood. Well-written and recommended.
Some found it hard to 'get in to' but those who did really enjoyed it and found it thought provoking. We had a lengthy group discussion as it touched on so many issues. There were many unanswered questions which added to the intrigue. Some felt the constant reference to her previous book 'Oranges' unnecessary and detracting. 'Brave, funny and heartbreaking' as on the cover!