Why Be Happy When You Could Be Norma? by Jeanette Winterson narrated by the authorWhy Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson narrated by the author

Genre: Memoir
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 6 hours 7 minutes
Narrated by: Jeanette Winterson
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Jeanette Winterson’s bold and revelatory novels have established her as a major figure in world literature. She has written some of the most acclaimed books of the last three decades, including her internationally bestselling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents that is considered one of the most important books in contemporary fiction. Jeanette’s adoptive mother loomed over her life until Jeanette finally moved out at sixteen because she was in love with a woman. As Jeanette left behind the strict confines of her youth, her mother asked, “Why be happy when you could be normal?”

This memoir is the chronicle of a life’s work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser drawer; about growing up in a north England industrial town in the 1960s and 1970s; and about the universe as a cosmic dustbin. It is the story of how a painful past, which Winterson thought she had written over and repainted, rose to haunt her later in life, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother. It is also a book about literature, one that shows how fiction and poetry can guide us when we are lost. Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging – for love, identity, and a home.

My Thoughts:
I’m glad I chose the audio edition of this book. Author narrated audiobooks seem to be hit or miss for me. Jeanette Winterson is not a professional narrator but I think hearing this book in her voice made it even better than if someone else had narrated it.

I loved hearing her speak about how important books and reading were to her despite the fact that most books were not allowed in her home. Books and reading were not only an escape from her difficult childhood they were also her way out and ultimately her livelihood.

The first half of the book is about her childhood and her adoptive parents and her fundamentalist upbringing. She left home at 16 when she fell in love with her second girlfriend. Her adoptive mother’s statement is now the title of the book. It seemed proof that Winterson’s earlier exorcism hadn’t worked.

The second part of the book takes place years later and is about Winterson’s search for her biological mother. And her own struggles with depression.

This was a moving memoir and one that will stick with me for a while.

If you choose to read it I recommend that audio format.


4 stars 4/5 for the book

4 stars 4.5/5 for the narration