Review: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson [review by Sandra de Helen]

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson 2011 Grove Press 230 pp. I loved Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit which is a fictionalized autobiography by this author. This book is the real story, but the writing is different. This book presumes you have read the autobiography or at least have seen the television series made from the book (I don’t know whether the series is available in the US). I did read Oranges, but a few years ago, so not every detail was sharp in my mind as I began this book. At the end of the book, she lets us know she was writing this book “in real time,” not knowing how it would turn out. Maybe that is why I found the book less than stimulating in parts. What I loved best were the details about her personal life: the time spent in libraries, the books she read, and what she thought about them. I liked knowing she was friends with one of my favorite authors, Ruth Rendell, and lovers with Susie Orbach, whose book Fat is a Feminist Issue, literally changed my life in 1977. I like the ending of this book, and I’m glad I read it. [Reviewed by Sandra de Helen]