Review: The PowerBook by Jeanette Winterson

An e-writer called Ali or Alix will write to order anything you like, provided that you are prepared to enter the story as yourself and take the risk of leaving it as someone else. You can be the hero of your own life. You can have freedom just for one night. But there is a price to pay.

This book irritated me but not because it wasn’t good.

Parts of it were so hauntingly lovely that I wanted to melt right into the page. Winterson is a master of creating lyrical stories within stories. One of my favourites that I immediately went back to read after just finishing it was in the opening of the book:

In the sixteenth century the first tulip was imported to Holland from Turkey. I know- I carried it myself.

By 1634 the Dutch were so crazy for this fish-mouthed flower that one collector exchanged a thousand pounds of cheese, four oxen, eight pigs, twelve sheep, a bed and a suit of clothes for a single bulb.

What’s so special about a tulip?

Put it this way…When is a tulip not a tulip? When it’s a Parrot or a Bizarre. When it’s variegated or dwarf. When it comes called Beauty’s Reward or Heart’s Reviver. When it comes called Key of Pleasure or Lover’s Dream…

The different stories, then, were adventurous and moving and heartfelt and played with boundaries of gender, time and reality. The parts which disappointed me greatly seemed to be autobiographical and jarred with the book. The writing suffered and was overly sentimental and just didn’t make me empathise at all or even appreciate the beauty of Winterson’s talent which is so apparent in parts of this novel.

I recommend you read this book. The beauty of her language will burn itself into your brain. The indulgent scenes will make you cringe but I defy you to read this and not crave another Jeanette Winterson book.

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