Why Be Happy Cover
In 1985 Jeanette Winterson published her semi-autobiographical book, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, an hilarious account of a young girl growing up in the industrial city of Manchester, England in the 1960s with her adoptive parents: a religious fanatic mother and an almost invisible father.
Twenty-five years later Winterson has published the memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Grove Press), in which she gives a more realistic account of her early life, including spending many nights locked out of the house or in the coal-hole, being allowed to read only the Bible and books about the Bible, and being refused medical help when she went deaf because her mother thought that it was "either Jesus stoppering up my ears to the things of the world in an attempt to reform my broken soul, or it was Satan whispering so loud that he had performated my eardrums."
In Winterson's words, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit was a cover version of her life, "a story I could live with. The other one was too painful. I could not survive it." Time must have given Winterson the distance she needed because she has given us the full story which begins in a cold, unloving home in Manchester and follows Winterson as she escapes, miraculously, to Oxford, goes mad (her own words), tries therapy but finds a book by Neville Symington that works better, and gradually reconciles with the demon inside of her.
Winterson describes her pursuit of happiness as a process that requires "a salmon-like determination to swim upstream, however choppy upstream is, because this is your stream..." and her written account rambles around and sometimes veers offstream, but she gets away with it in this honest, approachable and (sometimes) humourous story.