Adopted at six weeks old by the devout Mrs Winterson and her husband, Jeanette never belonged. Her mother was monsterous and it is a wonder that she adopted at all. She told her daughter that she came from 'the wrong crib' and that she should have adopted another child. Jeanette was never held, hugged, comforted. Rather she was put in the coal hold, or left to sleep on the front stoop when she misbehaved.
Books and reading was not encouraged (except for the Bible). Her mother's concern was that 'you never know what is in a book until it is too late'. Jeanette found solace in the books she discovered at the library, beginning her reading at A and working alphabetically towards Z. She discovered poetry and Shakespeare and, through reading, began to discover herself.
Meanwhile she endured her difficult childhood, including an attempted exorcism, before leaving home. But I don't want to give the impression that this is a Mommy Dearest story of brutality - there is tremendous humour and love amidst the angst. Her conversational tone, the pace at which the story is told, and the honesty of her voice makes for a remarkably beautiful memoir.
|Winterson, Sydney May 2016|
From her early thirties she skips ahead 25 years, deliberately leaving out those difficult decades where she struggled to find the happiness she hoped for. She concludes with chapters about her marriage to Susie Orbach, her attempts to find her birth parents and her coming to terms with her past. The story ends by returning to central themes - hope and the possibility of love. I'd like to think she has found what she has spent her life searching for.