Love and other quests

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, by Jeanette Winterson, Vintage, RRP£8.99, 230 pages

In the dramatic, eye-watering and absurdly comic first half of Winterson’s memoir, she recounts her childhood in working class Accrington, north-west England. Her adoptive mother kept a revolver in her duster drawer, believed the Apocalypse to be imminent and had 16-year-old Jeanette exorcised for sleeping with girls – stories that all fed into Winterson’s bestselling debut novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit.

These fiercely passionate revelations of her traumatic adolescence give way to a nervy second half in which, decades later, Winterson summons the courage to trace her birth mother. Candid about her own emotional vulnerabilities, Winterson brings into focus the issues that have shaped her adult life: trust, emotional security and a difficulty with being loved. “I was always wondering about love,” she admits. This uncertain but defiant memoir beautifully illuminates how her complex, unyielding search for love has defined her entire life.

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