25 May 2009

Sexing the Cherry

I finished Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry nearly a week ago and I've been rolling this book around in my head since then. And quite a lot, too, which is rather odd for me to do with a novel (Randy Shilts's And The Band Played On followed me around in my head for weeks, mostly because I was pretty irritated about things I couldn't change). Sexing the Cherry is an odd novel, very unique....and I'm not sure quite what to do with it! You know, sometimes I read a book and I think, "OK, that was weird, on to the next" and then I start reading another book without another thought but in this case I feel like I need to read this another two or three times to understand the nuances.

StC is most definitely a book that requires further thought to get into all the layers (I've ordered a Vintage Living Texts book about Jeanette Winterson novels because I fully intend to read more of her work). The novel has very little plot beyond telling Jordan's story and even that is not really "plot-driven" as things go. The strength of the novel rests on Winterson's extraordinary description of Jordan's Stuart/Commonwealth/Restoration world and Winterson's fantastic invention, Jordan's mother (who I'm thinking isn't actually named in the book so I'll have to check on that for a re-read); Jordan's mother is like a fun-house mirror's version of a Shakespearean bawd and makes for really interesting reading. I was only partially surprised to find that Winterson was raised to be a fundamentalist/evangelical missionary (I'm not sure which) because the overly-pious clergy suffer very interesting fates in this book. Other themes I can indentify in StC include love, motherhood, family, sex, lesbianism, homosexuality, self-discovery, and environmentalism. Adding to the fantastical nature of the book is the fairy-tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, very cleverly woven into Jordan's story.

I'm going to have to apologize for the rather jumbled nature of the post. Everything is still ping-ponging around in my head. Since I borrowed the copy I read from the library I'll need to get my own so I can scribble in it, etc., on a re-read in the future. I'll get another go-round with Winterson later this summer when I read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit with some friends.

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