Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sexing the Cherry Jeanette Winterson

I’ve been reading Jeanette Winterson’s novels for so long I hardly remember the first one I read but I know that the first one I wanted to read was Sexing the Cherry.  But I could never find it.  Not at the public library.  Not at the bookstore.  Not at the used bookstores.  Not at library book sales.  Yes, I could have ordered it online or even on ebay but, for some reason, I never did.  I think I wanted to either receive it as a gift or stumble upon it.

And finally I did, at a used bookstore. 

In this, one of her earlier novels, is full of mythic characters, including fairy tale characters, set during the civil war in 17th century England, specifically in London where a larger than life woman adopts a foundling boy, Jordan, raising him to be both proud of his untraditional mother and question the patriarchy.  Exotic fruit and fairy tale characters also come into play, along with a time shift that hints at quantum physics.

To call this novel an example of magical realism is to oversimplify what Winterson accomplishes.  The first person narrative alternates between mother and son.  Their experiences complement one another and their voices overlap, the way familial voices often do.  This further blurs the lines between gender roles.  The Dog Woman mother of Jordan is assertive, even aggressive, and dominant in ways that men are typically defined by society while Jordan shows a nurturing empathy and compassion typically relegated to women. 

Towards the end of the novel takes a large step sideways while continuing to contemplate the themes that have been interwoven throughout.  Winterson, as always, trusts her readers to meet the novel on its own terms.  It’s not a simple narrative arch.  You’ll have to think and make the connections for yourself.  That works for some readers and not for others.  For me, this works very well.  I wish my public library would keep all of Winterson’s books on the shelves. Unfortunately, even when I request they purchase them, they have been out too long for the library to make the investment.  This means, I have to wait to maybe stumble upon them at some used book resource.  There’s another public library book sale in October.  I can’t wait to see what I find there this time.   
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