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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

The Passion

The Passion - Jeanette Winterson This novel is told from the point of views of two characters -- a young man, Henri, an army cook for a chicken-obsessed Napoleon, and Villanelle, a Venetian web-footed female cross-dresser. Henri falls in a kind of hero-worshiping love with Napoleon but after the invastion of Russia becomes utterly disillusioned. Villanelle falls in love with a mysterious woman who, literally, takes her heart and keeps it hidden in a Venetian house. Later she marries a senior cook who is Henri's archenemy and something of a grotesque, but she later leaves him. Alas, he chases her and when he finds her, sells her off as a prostitute to the French officers. Thus, Henri and Villanelle's stories collide when she meets Henri in Russia, where Henri is trying to survive with an ex-priest. Henri becomes enamored of Villanelle and follows her to Venice, where she hopes to reclaim her heart. Sadly, Villanelle's husband also follows them and things don't work out very well for pour Henri, who looses more than his mind. With THE PASSIONWinterson moves firmly away from the traditional novel form -- she mixes history and myth and fairy tales. The recurring line, "Trust me, I'm telling you stories" becomes Winterson's refrain and leitmotif, not only in this work, but in her the rest of her fiction as well. Indeed, one could say it is the major theme of her work, along with the sexual ambiguity of her characters. All Winterson's work, and this is no exception, are loaded with scriptural references and biblical allusions (which is no surprise to those of us who have read an admired her semi-autobiographical novel, ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT. She also mines the liminal space between passion and obsession, as well as "truth" and "fiction" and sexual identify..A firm post-modernist, Winterson uses authorial interruptions throughout the novel to directly address the reader, and it is this authorial voice that provides two fairy tales that comment on the main story. I must admit, most post-modernists leave me cold, so chilly is the detachment of their prose and perspective (and often so over-clever), but Winterson's desperation to make you understand reminds me, in an odd way, of James Agee's LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN. She wants so much to make you understand, and she has so much compassion for her broken, emotionally-battered characters, that I can't help but be swept up in their stories. The fact she's such a brilliant wordsmith doesn't hurt.