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Winterson, Jeanette

story napoleon sexual jess

(British, 1959– )

Winterson's first novel, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit (1985, Whitbread award), which was later adapted for television, draws on her own upbringing by Pentecostal Evangelists in Lancashire. The central character, Jess, is raised to become a successful preacher but in her teens falls in love with a young woman from the church community. The discovery of their sexual relationship by her mother and the Pastor leads to Jess being exiled from her church and family. The main story is interwoven with allegorical fairy-tales. In The Passion (1987) two stories are interlinked. Henri, a poor farm-boy joins Napoleon's troops and ends up as the general's personal chicken-cooker, never killing anyone in his eight years as a soldier. Villanelle, a female transvestite with webbed feet, becomes prostitute to a high-ranking officer in Napoleon's army, meets Henri, and the two desert together. Winterson's prose is sometimes intensely poetic. In her later novels, she increasingly rejects traditional linear narrative and experiments with theme and idea, using poetic prose, legend and even scientific theory to link characters and stories. Sexing the Cherry (1989) shifts between contemporary times and a colourfully depicted England in the reign of Charles II. Jordan and his mother, the huge ‘Dogwoman’, live on the stinking Thames in a London about to face the Plague. Jordan encounters a series of fantastical adventures via Winterson's reworking of well-known fairy-tales such as ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’. Still more widely roaming is the recent The Power Book (2000), which zips about Europe and the ether, with the multi-layered story of Ali/Alix, a virtual narrator writing a story for you, the reader, and about you too—but at your own risk.

Angela Carter, Isabel Allende.

See CHILDHOOD, SEXUAL POLITICS  DJ

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