New review: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

// 30 July 2012

Published 26 years later, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal reveals the painful truth behind the fabrications Jeanette Winterson used as protection in her highly acclaimed first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Laura Brightwell considers the importance of Winterson’s revelations, particularly as a building-block to mental health


Naomi hands the book to me: “My mum thinks you should read this.” It’s an old paperback from the 1980s. The cover has a picture of a girl with orange hair on it. It marks the beginning of my teenage obsession with Jeanette Winterson’s writing.

Fast-forward 14 years and I am sitting in my bedroom at my parents’ house. This is the same room where I read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (several times), Written On The Body, The Passion and Art and Lies. Everything Winterson published until I was about 21. My mum has given me her latest book, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, for my 29th birthday. I am absorbed.

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