Book Review – Written on the Body

By Jeanette Winterson
Started: 9th September 2014
Finished: 12th September 2014

I’ve heard mixed things about Jeanette Winterson’s writing, so I didn’t really know what to expect with Written on the Body. However I found myself enjoying it more than I thought I would.

This novella takes us through some of the protagonists experiences with their lovers, never really knowing what love is until they meet married woman, Louise. Not only does the protagonist focus on the thoughts and feelings of love and relationships, but they describe them to the reader in terms of science as well.

Despite not knowing much about the protagonist (for example, we never find out whether they’re male or female), I found that I was still able to make a connection with them and even like them. I really liked how open the narrator was about their lovers and how they had experienced many different things. Most of all I love how they loved Louise. Louise herself was an interesting character, again there was mystery surrounding her – there was more detail given about her husband Elgin – however I found that fit very well with the enigma of the protagonist. Although she was only in it for a brief time, I even liked Gail and how blunt she was with our narrator. The advice she gave may not have come at the right time, but I’m pleased that it was said.

For the most part there was a linear plot that was easy to follow. Occasionally there would be flashbacks (particularly when talking about Elgin’s past) however I really enjoyed them, as they were just as interesting as the rest of the novella. You got to learn a lot about the protagonists old lovers, even though they may only be mentioned for a brief moment in just a paragraph dedicated to them. Using these were a great way to show how the narrator had changed because of these experiences.

It wasn’t just the plot of this novella that captured my interest, but the way it was written as well. The language was all very poetic which I loved, especially as the protagonist tried to avoid cliché, but to talk about a lover in a poetic fashion is very cliché indeed. It just emphasised the passion of our narrator and how much Louise meant to them. Not all the language was poetic, there are segments towards the end that are written in a very scientific way – almost as though they’re trying to immortalise Louise in all the ways they can with words. There were also times, mainly at the beginning of the story, where there were parts written as a play. Although these were brief, I really liked the different element that they added to the story.

As you can tell I really enjoyed this book, if I had the time I would have read it in one sitting. However I would have liked the plot to have been more structured from the start, rather than just when Louise came into the picture. The ending also left me feeling conflicted, I don’t quite understand what happened (but I feel that it will make more sense once I study it in class). I hope I get the chance to read more of Winterson’s work in the future.

Rating: 4/5


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