Book of the Month – April 2019

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

In 1985 Jeanette Winterson's first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published. It was Jeanette's version of the story of a terraced house in Accrington, an adopted child, and the thwarted giantess Mrs Winterson. It was a cover story, a painful past written over and repainted. It was a story of survival.

This book is that story's silent twin. It is full of hurt and humour and a fierce love of life. It is about the pursuit of happiness, about lessons in love, the search for a mother and a journey into madness and out again. It is generous, honest and true.

"Jeanette Winterson's memoir is written sparsely and hurriedly; it is sometimes so terse it's almost in note form. The impression this gives is not of sloppiness, but a desperate urgency to make the reader understand. This is certainly the most moving book of Winterson's I have ever read" – Zoe Williams, The Guardian

Read it? Loved it? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #HayBookoftheMonth.

Buy the book

Listen to Jeanette Winterson speaking about Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? at Hay Festival 2012

Jeanette Winterson speaking at Hay Festival

Further reading...

BBC World Book Club (2012)

Jeanette Winterson reforms Marriage (2017)

Jeanette Winterson on Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2012)

About the author

Jeanette Winterson CBE was born in Manchester. Adopted by Pentecostal parents, she was raised to be a missionary. This did and didn’t work out. Discovering early the power of books she left home at 16 to live in a Mini and get on with her education. After graduating from Oxford University she worked for a while in the theatre and published her first novel at 25. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is based on her own upbringing but using herself as a fictional character. She scripted the novel into a BAFTA-winning BBC drama. Twenty-seven years later she revisited that material in the bestselling memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? She has written 10 novels for adults, as well as children’s books, non-fiction and screenplays. She is Professor of New Writing at the University of Manchester. She lives in the Cotswolds in a wood and in Spitalfields, London. She believes that art is for everyone and it is her mission to prove it.

Jeanette Winterson signing books at Hay Festival

About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we've loved and think holds added resonance today. While many recommendations celebrate the new, this is a chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old – that reaches through time to touch the present.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HayBookoftheMonth and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

Over on Hay Player, a special playlist of talks to view online offer additional perspectives on the books from some of the greatest writers and thinkers around the world.

If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please email publicity@hayfestival.org.

Happy reading!