UK literary darling Jeanette Winterson captivated a nation with her semi-autobiography Oranges are not the only fruit, about her upbringing by her adoptive Evangelist parents in Lancashire in the 1960s.
Written when she was only 25, she tells the story of how she had been on the path to becoming a missionary when she fell in love. With another girl.
Why be happy when you could be normal? is Jeanette’s more fully autobiographical follow-up. In it, she presents further anecdotes of her domineering adoptive mother, Mrs Winterson. It was Mrs Winterson who gave this book its name, posing the question when Jeanette left home at 16 to be with her female lover.
I spoke to Jeanette about growing up under the thumb of Mrs Winterson, her voracious reading habits which gave way to writing, and about memory. And as a special treat, at the end of the interview she obliges my request to recite a piece of poetry; a request made as slips of poetry feature throughout Why be happy.
This interview was conducted in advance of Jeanette’s appearance at the 2012 Sydney Writers Festival.
Why be happy when you could be normal? is written by Jeanette Winterson and published by Random House.
Interview broadcasted on ArtSound FM.
Interview date: 17 May 2012.