Uwe Timm: In My Brother’s Shadow – Am Beispiel meines Bruders (2003)

in-my-brothers-shadowuwe-timm

Maybe you’ve never heard of Timm’s novella The Invention of Curried Sausage. If you haven’t, do yourself a favour and get it because it’s marvellous. Possibly because I loved that novella so much, I stayed away from In My Brother’s ShadowAm Beispiel meines Bruders, although I’d been keen on reading it since it came out in 2003. There’s not one reader or critic who doesn’t think it’s essential reading. But we all know how it goes – everyone praises something, and one has read another book by an author that one loved  . . . I’m glad I finally overcame my reluctance because if ever a book was essential reading – then it’s this one. And for many reasons, not only as a brilliant WWII and post-war memoir.

In his memoir In My Brother’s Shadow, Timm doesn’t only try to reconstruct his brother’s life and find out who he really was, but examines his own family and the German post-war society. Timm was born in 1940, the third and last child of his parents. His sister and brother were both over sixteen years older. His brother Karl-Heinz was his father’s favourite. When Karl-Heinz was severely wounded and later died in 1943, on the Eastern Front, in the Ukraine, his father was devastated. The older son was everything he’d wished for. He would take over his business. He was courageous and heroic, unlike little Timm who’s squeamish and dreamy.

Although soldiers weren’t allowed to write a diary, Karl-Heinz did and after he died of his wounds, it was sent back to his parents.

When he’s almost sixty and both of his parents and sister dead, Uwe Timm, rereads the diary and the brother’s letters and decides to write this memoir.

It is clear from the beginning that he doesn’t consider his brother to be a hero. He’s too shocked by some of the diary entries. They are cold and devoid of any compassion with the soldiers and civilians he kills. Karl-Heinz is a member of the SS Panzer Division Totenkopf (Skull and Crossbones). One of the SS’s notorious elite divisions. But what shocks Timm even more, and that’s because it’s also part of the post-war mindset, are the omissions. He knows his brother was present when some of the most horrific extermination operations went on, but he doesn’t mention anything. And in the end, he even stops writing his diary because, as he writes, it doesn’t make sense to write about awful things.

Reading Timm’s account, you can feel that he was ashamed and horrified that he had a brother like this. And he’s ashamed and horrified because of the way people spoke right after the war. Many found it perfectly OK that Jews were killed and were only angry about losing the war. Many others said they “didn’t know” but it was clear they had only chosen not to know.

The silence and passivity of the masses disgusted Timm. He also found out that many soldiers were given a choice whether they wanted to be part of a firing squad or not. Hardly anyone said no. Interestingly though, saying no, had absolutely no consequences. They didn’t choose to fire people because they were scared but simply because they wanted to.

Timm also explores his father’s authoritarian education methods which were pretty typical for that time. Kids had to obey and if they didn’t  they were slapped, hit or worse. Psychologists have found out a long time ago that this “black pedagogy” as it is called was one of the reasons why Hitler and Nazism were so successful.

While the book is harsh on his family and many other Germans, it still captures the suffering. His family, like so many others, lost everything when Hamburg was destroyed in ’43. For many years they lived in a cellar.

In My Brothers’ Shadow is also amazing as a book about writing a memoir. What it means to dig deeper and find family secrets. It’s not surprising, he was only able to write about everything so honestly, after his parents and sister were dead.

Uwe Timm is a wonderful, stylish writer that’s why this memoir has many poetic elements. It is a fascinating and touching story of a German family.

One thing that Timm’s elegant and poignant memoir illustrates admirably well – silence is political. Looking the other way is not innocence it’s complicity. This should be self-evident, unfortunately, it wasn’t then and it’s still not now. I’m glad I finally read this memoir. Especially just after Kempowski’s novel. They are great companion pieces.

Susannah Clapp: A Card From Angela Carter (2012)

A Card From Angela Carter

I wanted to read Susannah Clapp’s book A Card from Angela Carter since reading TJ’s review on her blog My Book Strings during Angela Carter Week last year. I’m glad I finally got a chance to do so. It’s a small but exuberant little book. Very much in the spirit of Angela Carter herself. Susannah Clapp is Angela Carter’s literary executor. She was one of the co-founders of the London Review of Books. She writes theater critics for different newspapers.

A Card From Angela Carter is biographical but it’s not a biography as such. It’s an homage and much more like a patchwork, loosely inspired by a collection of postcards Angela Carter sent Susannah Clapp over the years of their friendship. Reading these vignette-like biographical snippets is like watching a photo develop in a darkroom. With every card, with every story of Angela Carter’s life, the writer emerges more and more distinctly.

Clapp touches on subjects as wide as Angela Carter’s taste, her books, her love of kitsch, her exuberant nature, her use of swear words, her politics, her feminism, the fact that she was never nominated for the Booker, her choice to go grey, her teenage anorexia, her travels, her stay in Japan and the US, her thoughts on housework and sex.

You learn a lot about Angela Carter when reading this. About her marriage, divorce, second marriage and late motherhood. About her relationship with her parents. Her studies, her interests. I wasn’t aware that the Orange Prize was founded because Angela Carter’s work was never on the Booker shortlist. Clapp’s book is fascinating, because Angela Carter was such a fascinating author but what I liked best is that the book puts you in the mood to go and pick up Angela Carter’s work. And it certainly makes you wish you’d known her.

A Card From Angela Carter is inspiring in many ways. It works as an homage and a teaser that tempts you to go deeper and to (re-) read her work and the books about her.

Literature and War Readalong December 29 2014: Letters From a Lost Generation by Vera Brittain and Four Friends

Letters From a Lost Generation

Letters from a Lost Generation is the book I’ve been looking forward to all year. I love reading letters and this collection has been on my radar for a long time. Vera Brittain was a nurse during WWI.

The letters have been written between her, her fiancé, her younger brother, and two of their best friends. All four men died in the war. I don’t know how she survived such loss. Vera Brittain later wrote her memoirs Testament of Youth, based on her wartime experience.

And some details and the blurb for those who want to join

Letters from a Lost Generation by Vera Brittain and Four Friends (UK) WWI, Letters, 448 pages

Nothing in the papers, not the most vivid and heart-rending descriptions, have made me realise war like your letters’ Vera Brittain to Roland Leighton, 17 April 1915.

This selection of letters, written between 1913 & 1918, between Vera Brittain and four young men – her fiance Roland Leighton, her brother Edward and their close friends Victor Richardson & Geoffrey Thurlow present a remarkable and profoundly moving portrait of five young people caught up in the cataclysm of total war.

Roland, ‘Monseigneur’, is the ‘leader’ & his letters most clearly trace the path leading from idealism to disillusionment. Edward, ‘ Immaculate of the Trenches’, was orderly & controlled, down even to his attire. Geoffrey, the ‘non-militarist at heart’ had not rushed to enlist but put aside his objections to the war for patriotism’s sake. Victor on the other hand, possessed a very sweet character and was known as ‘Father Confessor’. An important historical testimony telling a powerful story of idealism, disillusionment and personal tragedy.

 

*******

The discussion starts on Monday, 29 December 2014.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2014, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.

Claire Tomalin: Jane Austen – A Life (1997)

Jane Austen

Last year I was in a Jane Austen mood for several months. I read the last of her novels I hadn’t read, watched movie adaptations, and even picked up the one or the other book inspired by her. Finally I also read Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen biography, which I’ve finished a while ago.

Jane Austen – A Life isn’t only an excellent biography, it’s very moving as well. There isn’t all that much we know about Jane Austen but Tomalin wrote about what little we know with so much empathy and compassion that, at times, I couldn’t help but feel deeply for Jane Austen. When you read a biography you’re never sure what you will get. Some biographers are too present in the book or, what is even worse, some seem not to like their chosen subject at all. I’m glad none of this was the case here. I felt Tomalin approached Jane Austen with a lot of admiration and sympathy.

It’s hard to review a biography and do it justice, especially when it’s so carefully done, including every aspect of an author’s life. There were chapters I devoured, others, like those on the Austen neighbours, were a bit dragging. Overall however this is a wonderful biography and I could feel on every page how much passion and dedication Tomalin put into the book.

Since the book is so comprehensive, I’d like to pick just a few elements and write about those.

Tomalin, as I just wrote, is a very compassionate biographer, which made her detect things that are never explicitly stated in the testimonies or letters. She writes that seen from outside one might think that Jane Austen had a happy childhood and an unproblematic life, but when you look more closely, it becomes apparent, that there was a lot of heartache and sorrow. Tomalin mentions for example that all the Austen children were given away for up to 18 months when they were just a few months old. They grew up in the village with a wet-nurse. This means that by the age of three, they had experienced two traumatic events. First they had to leave the mother and later they were ripped from the family they hade come to see as their own.

The movie Becoming Jane, gives the wrong impression with regard to Jane Austen’s siblings. She had only one sister, but more than one brother, and because the parents had a school for boys, she and her sister grew up among many other boys. Unfortunately, because  it was a boy’s school, the two sisters had to leave the family again and go to boarding school. This, it seems, was another traumatic event as the school was quite terrible.

When I watched Becoming Jane, I wondered, like so many others, how much of the love story was true. Why did Jane Austen never get married? Was she too heartbroken and could never get over Tom Lefroy? After reading Tomalin, I have the impression that the love story which is told in the movie, is quite close to reality. There was no elopement and, as I already mentioned, Jane had more than one brother, but the depiction of the unhappy love story between her and the Irishman Tom Lefroy is pretty accurate. She had more opportunities later in life but she turned all her suitors down. She didn’t have any feelings for them.

Jane and her sister Cassandra were very close and spent their whole lives together. Seeing how many of the women around them were either constantly pregnant or died in childbed, staying single must have been some consolation to them.

I wasn’t aware that Jane Austen stopped writing for almost ten years. The chapters on this silence are by far the most tragic and interesting. One could think that the cause for her silence was small, but for Jane Austen it was a catastrophe. She loved the house in the country in which she grew up and when her parents decided to sell it – without telling Jane or her sister anything about the decision, until it was executed – she was devastated. She didn’t want to move to Bath. She didn’t like it and the house would be much smaller. There would be no garden, and no possibility to be close to nature. The impact of this move was so intense that she became depressed, shut down and didn’t write anymore. I guess it was more than just the loss of the garden though. She had a certain routine, and lack of space would prevent that she could withdraw herself from company as easily as before.

Jane Austen died quite young and, according to Tomalin, it’s not entirely clear what illness she had. Some attempts at a retrospective diagnosis have been made. She might have died from Addison’s disease, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or bovine tuberculosis. In any case, the deterioration was slow and she suffered for more than a year before she died.

The biography contains a lot more, of course. I focussed on the tragedies of her life, but Tomalin writes extensively about the books and the influence Jane Austen’s reading had on her writing. Dr Johnson is mentioned for example and that many of Austen’s famous sentences have been inspired by him.

At the end of her biography Tomalin writes about Jane Austen:

“She is as elusive as a cloud in the night sky.” (287)

That’s exactly how I felt when I closed the book. As if I’d been watching a shadow theater. It’s the first time, I close a biography and it leaves me this sad.

Vivian Gornick: The End of the Novel of Love (1997) Essays on Literature

The End of the Novel of Love

In these essays Vivian Gornick examines a century of novels in which authors have portrayed women who challenge the desire to be swept away by passion. She concludes that love as a metaphor for the making of literature is no longer apt for today’s writers, such has the nature of love and romance and marriage changed. Taking the works of authors such as Willa Cather, Jean Rhys, Christina Stead, Grace Paley and Hannah Arendt, Gornick sets out to show how novels have increasingly questioned the inevitability of love and marriage as the path to self-knowledge and fulfilment.

Vivian Gornick is an essayist and memoirist. Her collection The End of the Novel of Love contains a wide range of essays on different authors and topics. The title is the title of one of the essays. Almost all the essays circle to some extent around the topic of love. Some of the essays are more biographical, others focus more on a theme and compare and analyse different authors and works.

There are biographical essays on Kate Chopin, Jean Rhys, Willa Cather, Christina Stead and Grace Paley. I liked the one on Willa Cather and Grace Paley best, as Gornick is less judgmental in them than in some of the others. In the essay on Paley she says that despite the fact that her range isn’t all that wide, that Paley often writes about the same things again and again, her stories are still excellent because in her stories the voice is the story. What is unique in her stories is that people don’t fall in love with each other but with the desire to be alive.

There have been three story collections in thirty-five years. They have made Paley famous. All over the world, in languages you never heard of, she is read as a master storyteller in the great tradition: people love life more because of her writing.

The book contains two essays on people who are not fiction writers: Hannah Arendt and Clover Adams. While I’m familiar with Arendt and her work, I didn’t know the tragic story of Clover Adams, the wife of Henry Adams, who took her own life in 1885. The suicide struck Henry Adams particularly hard as he thought of Clover and himself as two parts of a whole, while, very clearly, Clover had an inner life of her own and didn’t share most of her distress. Clover was, according to Gornick, extremely intelligent and witty, which fascinated Adams. He fell in love with her mind right away, but didn’t show much kindness when he wrote about her as being anything but handsome. And even his praise of her intelligence doesn’t really read as a praise because he feels obliged to add – implicitly and explicitly – that she’s witty and intelligent “for a woman”.

The most interesting essays in the collection are those on themes, in which Gornick analyses and compares several works.

In Diana of the Crossways Gornick compares George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, George Meredith’s Diana of the Crossways and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Gornick tells us that while the three books written by women are brilliant, they aren’t a success, unlike Diana of the Crossways, which is a stunning novel, because it goes one step further.

Each of these three novels was written by a brilliant woman with the taste of iron in her mouth. Each of them gives us a sobering portrait of what it feels like to be a creature trapped, caught stopped in place. Yet no one of these novels penetrates any deeper than the others into the character’s desire to be free: all that is achieved here is the look and feel of resistance. (…)

George Meredith, in his late fifties, had the experience and the distance. Meredith knew better than Woolf, Eliot, and Wharton what a woman and a man equally matched in brains, will, and hungriness of spirit might actually say and do, both to themselves and to one another. (…)

Diana Warwick is one of the first women in an English novel both beautiful and intellectually gifted who needn’t be dismissed as vain, shrewd, and ambitious before we can get on with it.

Ruthless Intimacies analyses the relationship between mother and son in D.H.Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, and the relationship between mothers and daughters in Radclyffe Hall’s The Unlit Lamp, May Sinclair’s Mary Oliver, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Edna O’Brien’s short story A Rose in the Heart of New York. The relationships in these novels are symbiotic and swallow up the daughters completely. They struggle their whole lives to free themselves. I can relate to that all too well and would really love to read The Unlit Lamp and Edna O’Brien’s short story. Both sound pertinent and excellent.

Tenderhearted Men focusses on author’s who write in the vein of Hemingway about men and women. Raymond Carver, Richard Ford and André Dubus. Gornick dismisses them as too sentimental. They cling to a dated idea of men being saved by women, without trying to understand them.

The End of the Novel of Love is interesting. It states the obvious but the obvious was still worth stating. Most of the tragic (love) stories of the past like Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, but also books like The House of Mirth are unthinkable in our day and age. Marriage and society have changed so much. Adultery doesn’t have the social consequences it had. I thought this part of the essay interesting, but I didn’t like that she chose to illustrate her concept in picking apart Jane Smiley’s novella The Age of Grief and calling it not only unmoving, but a failure. Harsh words. Maybe it’s true. I haven’t read it but I don’t like this type of unkind criticism.

Gornick’s writing is very accessible, a lot of her insights are fascinating and made me think, but, as I mentioned before, she’s very judgmental, which made me cringe occasionally. It made Gornick come across as very unkind. See for example this passage taken from the essay on Kate Chopin.

One of her biographers makes  the point that Chopin never revised, Chopin herself, announced, in interview after interview throughout her professional life, that the writing either came all at once, or not at all. I think it the single most important piece of writing we have about her. She seems to have considered this startling practice a proof of giftedness, rather than of the amateurishness that it really was.

Although I didn’t care for some of her harsh judgments, I thought many of her observations were pertinent and fascinating and I’d certainly read another of her books. I’m interested in her memoir Fierce Attachments and her book on creative non-fiction The Situation and the Story: the Art of Personal Narrative.

If you’re interested here’s the first chapter on Diana of the Crossways.

Rebecca Park Totilo: Organic Beauty With Essential Oil

Organic Beauty

I’ve always been interested in essential oils and also used them quite frequently in the past, still I would never have thought I’d enjoy reading this wonderful book so much. Rebecca put knowledge, passion and enthusiasm into this book, and wrote it in an accessible and engaging way. It’s a real pleasure to read.

The book opens with a detailed introduction to making your own beauty products with essential oils. It gives tips and advice on which are the best carrier oils, what oils are best for the skin, which will help set a specific mood and so on. You will also find instructions on how to store your oils, how to dilute and blend them. Rebecca also enumerates all the different products that you can do with the help of this book. At the end of the introduction you find a detailed description of  far over 70 essential oils, from Angelica to Ylang Ylang. Each section describes what the oil is for, how to use it and whether you have to be careful with it.

After the description comes the “recipe section”, which contains the following chapters: Bath Oils, Bath Bombs, Bath Salts, Bubble Baths, Bath Soaps, Milk Baths, Body Scrubs, Body Powders, Body Sprays, Body Lotions, Facial Scrubs, Facial Masks, Facial Creams, Facial Toners, Shampoos and Shower Gels, Toothpaste, Lip Balms and Glosses, Cuticle Oils, Hand Creams, Products for the Feet.

As you can see, the book is very rich.

I picked two recipes for you, to give you and idea

Energizing Bath Salt

WHAT YOU WILL NEED

2 cups Epsom Salt

1 cup Sea Salt

10 drops Natural Green Food Coloring

5 drops Natural Blue Food Coloring

6 drops Eucalyptus essential oil

10 drops Rosemary essential oil

15 drops Peppermint essential oil

WHAT TO DO

  1. In a large bowl, add salts and food coloring
  2. Add the essential oils, one drop at a time and mix well. Let it sit overnight.
  3. For the bath: Add 4 heaping tablespoons of bath salts to the running water for one full tub.

Sweet ‘N Sour Nail Growth Oil

WHAT YOU WILL NEED

20 drops Lavender essential oil

10 drops Lemon essential oil

2 tablespoons Sweet Almond Oil

Small dark glass bottle

WHAT TO DO

  1. In a bottle, add the almond oil and the essential oils.
  2. Tighten the cap and shake the bottle vigorously for one minute to blend.
  3. To use, massage the nail bed once a day to encourage healthy growth.

I hope this gave you a good impression. I think Rebecca did a great job. It’s an inspiring and colorful book with tons of recipes, ideas and tips. It’s great for people who are fed up with toxic beauty products, for everyone who likes to experiment and try out new things, but also for those who are simply interested to learn more about essential oils.

Here is Rebbecca’s page.

And some more information on the author:

“Rebecca Park Totilo’s flair and passion for life bursts into living color when she writes and speaks, as you will see in the visual way she presents herself.  She literally believes in the “show, don’t tell” principle in everything she does.  Becca has ministered to literally millions of people via television, radio and live appearances. She is an award-winning published author of over 40 books, including “Therapeutic Blending With Essential Oil”, “Heal With Essential Oil”, and “Through the Night With God.” Her credits include working as a contributor writer on two best-selling series (“Quiet Moments with God” and “Stories for the Teen’s Heart”) which sold over one million and five million copies respectively.  She is also a freelance writer for several national magazines include Christian Parenting Today, Discipleship Journal and Woman’s World.

Rebecca’s photography work has appeared in numerous national magazines such as Woman’s World, Sports Spectrum, Evangel, and Sharing the Victory.  But by far, her greatest accomplishment, if you asked her, is after a decade of rejection slips (with almost 150 in one year!), Rebecca hit it big in 1999, with over 13 books contracts, ranging from teaching curriculum to gift books and devotionals for adults.  Truly, its her grit determination that makes her inspirational writings draw such a mass market appeal.

Rebecca graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1986 with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Information Systems. In addition, she attended Faith Bible Institute in Richmond, Virginia for instruction in ministry and University of the Nations in Hawaii. She is also trained as a Clinical Aromatherapist and is an international educator offering online courses on the art of perfume-making and how to blend with essential oils worldwide on her website http://rebeccatotilo.com. Rebecca owns a cute soap boutique, Aroma Hut, near the beach in Florida where she practices as an Clinical Aromatherapist.

Rebecca won the Writer of the Year in Non-Fiction (National Writer’s Association)

Rebecca Park Totilo

Thanks to Virtual Author Book Tours for letting me participate in this tour. I enjoyed it a great deal. If you’d like to enter for a giveaway, don’t miss the other tour dates, which you will find here.

vabt-highresolution

Jeanette Winterson: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011)

Why Be Happy

In 1985 Jeanette Winterson’s first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published. It was Jeanette’s version of the story of a terraced house in Accrington, an adopted child, and the thwarted giantess Mrs Winterson. It was a cover story, a painful past written over and repainted. It was a story of survival.

This book is that story’s the silent twinIt is full of hurt and humour and a fierce love of life. It is about the pursuit of happiness, about lessons in love, the search for a mother and a journey into madness and out again. It is generous, honest and true.

Jeanette Winterson’s first novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is largely inspired by her childhood. Her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? tells the other side of the story. That what was left out. It took me a long time to read this memoir. I started it four times, not because it’s not good, but because reading it was painful. The first part, until Jeanette leaves home at 16 and her mother asks her the question that has become the title of the book, is painful and disturbing for many reasons. The wit and the humor she uses to describe her awful childhood made me shudder. Shudder because I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how you could live through so much pain and not go crazy, to write a book at 21 and become famous and leave it all behind. I was glad she proved to be so resilient, but it made me uneasy. I kept on thinking: When is it going to happen? When will she break down? Is that still in the future? I don’t think that you can survive a childhood like Winterson’s and not break down eventually. It’s just a matter of time.The second part of the book deals with what came much later. Jeanette Winterson’s descent into madness (her terms), her breakdown and attempted suicide in 2008. Reading that felt like entering a freshly aired room. I know this may sound weird, but the beginning made me choke. I couldn’t believe that she’d left it all behind and only when I read about the descent into madness, did I finally feel glad for her. Now she can move on.

Jeanette Winterson was adopted by the Wintersons when she was 6 months old. She was never told who her real parents were and her mother always said that the devil led them to the wrong crib, meaning she would have liked another child, a nicer child. This is such a typical statement from a woman like Mrs Winterson who is a depressed zealot and always utters half-truths in bible-inspired metaphor. Jeanette Winterson says that all of her books start with individual meaningful sentences and we see where that comes from. Her mother often only says one dark ominous sentence over and over again. Sometimes without any apparent connection to what just happens or what was just said. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls . . .”, “It’s a fault to heaven, a fault against the dead and a fault to nature . . . ” Uttered without any context or referring to very mundane things like the gas oven blowing up, these sentences are either creepy or hilarious.

Winterson grew up in the North of England, near Manchester and she loves this part of the country, lovingly tells us about its history, which is quite interesting. The Wintersons are not only religious fanatics but working class and her mother is so suspicious of books that she confiscates and burns all of those Jeanette has been hiding.

Punishment is frequent and comes in different forms. Either Jeanette is beaten or left outside all night and day, on the door step, even in winter.

When she falls in love with a girl, and Mrs W finds out, they perform an exorcism. Jeannette finally leaves at 16. She only returns once, when she’s studying in Oxford and things go very wrong. That’s the last time she sees her mother.

As you may have guessed, this isn’t an easy book to write about. I marked so many passages and sentences that hardly any page is left white. Jeanette Winterson has a way with words that is amazing. Although I don’t always agree, I find the sentences, many of which are used in her novels, arresting.

In her novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson paints her mother like a giantess and in her memoir she says she was too large for her circumstances. I was puzzled that there was no explanation whatsoever why Mrs W was the way she was. Mean, fanatic, abusive, depressed and just plain crazy. She had her dreams and her wishes, but smothered them. She lived as if she was wearing a very tight corset. The Wintersons were Pentecostals and the religion was like a mental corset.

If you like memoir, then you should read this. It’s disturbing, but it’s so amazingly well written and the first part has hilarious moments. Mrs Winterson is crazy, but she really is larger than life. She reminded me of some of Picasso’s paintings of grotesquely deformed women. We read about her with horror, but at the same time we almost wishes we had been there. I even felt compassion, there were small details that could almost make her endearing. At the end of the book, when Jeanette Winterson has found her birth mother and looks back on her childhood, she says she’s glad Mrs Winterson was her mother. Although she was crazy and abusive, she made her who she is, maybe without such an adoptive mother, there wouldn’t be a writer like Jeanette Winterson. I can understand that thinking very well.