I’ve read a few Jeanette Winterson novels recently – this is the last one on the list and I think my favourite. In it, the narrator recounts and explores a number of her former relationships – I say “her” presumptuously because I don’t think that her gender is ever actually mentioned – and nor is her name.
The novel begins with a musing on love – how saying “I love you” is not original as it’s been said so many millions of times by so many millions of people – and yet these are the words we crave the most; and a debate of their legitimacy. I’m studying again at the moment so having to snatch opportunities to read and honestly if I hadn’t been at the gym I might have put this down at an earlier opportunity – but I’m glad I didn’t because as the story developed I became more entranced and ended up staying up to finish it all in one go. After a number of unsuccessful relationships, the narrator meets Louise, a married Australian woman, who, unlike many of her other lovers, is prepared and eager to leave her husband so they can be together. Although this is a book about relationships I don’t want to give the impression that the narrator is simply searching for a partner and lamenting former loves in a Bridget Jones kind of way – more like she explores how other women have acted towards her and how it’s made her feel – in particular, married women who claim to love her but refuse to leave their husbands. Towards the middle of the book, it becomes a study of her love for Louise, which is both all encompassing and extremely painful and bittersweet – due to circumstances I won’t discuss because I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Once the narrative switched from pensive philosophising to personal recollection (which didn’t take long) it became much more interesting for me – I’ll be honest, when I started reading this I didn’t expect to enjoy it half as much as I did but I refused to stop reading and go to sleep until I’d finished it – and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a while. I’m sure I thought of something clever and analytical to say about the title but of course I’ve forgotten it now but I think I’d recommend this over and above her other books that I’ve read.