"I'm telling you stories. Trust me."
Jeanette Winterson points to the one fact within this novel as being that there is no way to know what is true and what is false within history. With this, the novel becomes nothing more than stories reflecting what may have actually happened. It can be argued that this novel is an autobiography, and with the name of the protagonist matching the name of the author, it only seems to make sense. But Winterson claims that this cannot be an autobiography. The fact that she wrote it testifies to the inability of this novel to be completely true because of the subjective writing, as well as the fact that as time edges on in her mind, the story will change. No story remains the same as a person grows because as she states herself in many of her novels, time is a great deadener. Everything changes with time.
The novel begins with the story of a young girl who has been adopted into a heavily Christian community. Jeanette lives under the control of her intensely religious mother, and strives towards the organized path that has been set out for her - the life of a missionary. As she grows older, she begins to show homosexual tendencies. When she acts on these desires, her community, and particularly her mother, lose all rationality. The course of Jeanette's life is peppered with her old desires of doing what she believes to be decided by God, and her new desires of being who she really is. As she grows and matures, she is forced to make the choice between her community and her own path through life. The most interesting part of the community's inability to accept Jeanette's desires is the fact that they have raised her in a world that would seemingly condone her behavior. Although they are obviously religious, Jeanette is raised in a world where women hold all of the power. The only man to voice anything throughout the whole novel is the Pastor, and even then he is surrounded by the women of the Church, being urged at what to do and say in any given situation. Jeanette's own father is seemingly never even in the same room as her and her mother. We do not hear him speak once. So when Jeanette finds herself falling for the young Melanie, I believe that it is only because she has been raised in a world where men just aren't necessary. Women have the strength, and therefore she holds the most desire for them. She never had the opportunity to fall in love with a man, because there were never any to fall in love with.
I give this novel a 3/5. I did not enjoy it as much as The Passion, but I still think that it is one of her better novels. The voice of a child that she is able to create within the opening chapters is outstanding, and as the voice changes in maturity, it does feel like you are growing with Jeanette. I think that the thing I loved the most about this novel is the fact that it is not a homosexual text. Instead, it is a story about something that most children go through. We all have the choice of doing what our parents would prefer us to do, what they raise and groom us for, and breaking free of their set path and finding out who we really are to ourselves. Jeanette's story follows the life of a girl who cannot help but fall in love with women, but I think that the basis of the story can be related to so many children attempting to find their footing in young adulthood.