Mar 11, 2014
Why Is the Measure of Love Loss?
Posted on Mar 29, 2012
The second half of the book is less linear than the first; the prose is more fragmented and urgent. This may be a reflective function of the subject matter—that of mental breakdown. It is powerful and visceral and the reader genuinely fears for the author. Winterson discovers, with the help of analysis, what she calls a “savage lunatic” living inside her.
The passages in which she argues with “the creature” during her afternoon walks are very fine indeed.
At the end of the book, Winterson is in a good relationship with Susie Orbach, the psychoanalyst, and with her help finds, at last, her birth mother. One hopes for a happy ending here, but of course life is messy and complicated. The meeting may have helped heal Winterson in some ways, but it is no cure-all. Finally, however, the reader gets the impression that even though Winterson may never be utterly free of the demons, she will be able to live in relative comfort with them.
It is astonishing not only that Winterson can face her life with such clarity, but that she can turn the events of her life into something much broader than most memoirs. However, Winterson has always mixed whatever story she’s telling with myths and fables so they become much larger than what is on the page.
It should come as no surprise that she’s done the same with this book. Interspersed are delightful mini-essays on gender politics, socialism, education, politics, Margaret Thatcher and, of course, literature. Winterson’s salvation came from books and she wants to share them with the reader.
The memoir is peppered with digressions about various books and it’s quite inspiring, for above all else this is a writer’s memoir; bravely written, it explores brokenness and strength, abandonment, abuse and learning (hopefully) to love and be loved. Most of all, it shows how her life contributed to Winterson becoming the sort of writer she is. And thank God for that.
Lauren B. Davis is the author of five books, most recently, “Our Daily Bread.” Like Jeanette Winterson, she was adopted as a baby by a mentally ill woman, was never allowed a key to the house, left home at 16 and eventually met her birth mother, with similar results.
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