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The Passion

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  14,134 Ratings  ·  972 Reviews
Jeanette Winterson’s novels have established her as one of the most important young writers in world literature. The Passion is perhaps her most highly acclaimed work, a modern classic that confirms her special claim on the novel. Set during the tumultuous years of the Napoleonic Wars, The Passion intertwines the destinies of two remarkable people: Henri, a simple French s ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 7th 1997 by Grove Press (first published 1987)
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May 16, 2013 Daniel rated it it was amazing
There is little I can say about this book that does not border on gushing, but I'll try. The Passion is perhaps one of the most amazing stories I have ever read. It is not so much a novel as a journey through the mind and soul of Henri and Villanelle, through the real and ephemeral Venice, through history and imagination. While containing a solid narrative, it delves into the psyche and spirit of the writer and her characters. Read it once and you are trapped. Read it twice and you gladly relinq ...more
Jan 22, 2016 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Lovers are not at their best when it matters. Mouths dry up, palms sweat, conversation flags, and all the time the heart is threatening to fly from the body once and for all. Lovers have been known to have heart attacks. Lovers drink too much from nervousness and cannot perform. They eat too little and faint during their fervently
wished consummation. They do not stroke the favored cat and their face-paint comes loose. This is not all. Whatever you have set store by, your dress, your dinner,
Masked kiss - image source:

Dans le Noir

A blind pedlar… never spilt his stew or missed his mouth the way I did. ‘I can see,’ he said, ‘but I don’t use my eyes.’

I recently ate unknown food, served in total darkness, by blind waiters.

It was an intense and disorienting experience. Boundaries break down: you touch the stranger who guides you to your seat, talk to invisible people sitting beside you (how un-English!), can’t judge or be judged by looks or clo
Paul Bryant
Dec 03, 2015 Paul Bryant rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
Jeanette Winterson pops up from time to time on BBC political debate programmes and she is like a laser beam of sensibleness, from a decidedly rad-lesbian perspective she cuts through the waffle and she's a joy to hear, Germaine Greer's punkier young sister maybe. But in her books she goes off on one, to coin a British phrase :

to go off on one (Brit; colloq.)

to suddenly become very angry and start shouting or behaving violently, as in

He went off on one because he thought I was threatening his do
Aug 05, 2007 Kelly rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: not really sure
To my surprise? I'm kind of disappointed in it. The New York Times review of it says that it "dares you to laugh and stares you down." Unfortunately, I'm just laughing. She's trying so hard to be profound with these statements, and 9 out of 10 times it doesn't quite work. The book is filled with cliches and trite conclusions that are just so hackneyed (actual example: death and darkness are like each! Have you noticed that??) Her attempt to be Marquez fails quite badly, unfortunately ...more
Jan 04, 2015 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Shelves: favorites
I don't even know where to begin with this, so I'll likely keep it brief. Basically all I can say is that Jeanette Winterson is officially my next obsession, that I'm absolutely thrilled that my adviser recommended her to me, and that this is one of the most invigorating novels I've read in a long time. Winterson reminds me a bit of Angela Carter here-not that they write in the same way, but in that they use magic and intertextuality in similar ways, and that each have a very blunt aesthetic tha ...more
Aug 30, 2016 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Jeanette Winterson is one of those authors I am constantly surprised at. "The Passion" is my favourite so far (update: before reading Sexing the Cherry, which is even more fascinating). There is something magical in her way of weaving the stories of her characters, and showing different angles of the central theme: passion. I do generally not like historical fiction, but in this case, the setting in Napoleonic Europe adds tremendously to the ideas on display. One main thought, repeated several t ...more
Anna Banana
May 12, 2015 Anna Banana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

Wow! Talk about amazing writing! This book was deep, the writing was amazing and I loved how much it made me think. So, so good!
Aug 11, 2015 PattyMacDotComma rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook-ol
I loved this book. It’s not long, and it’s an easy read (you don’t need to be a literary critic to enjoy it!), but the style and world are so marvellous, I wanted to linger. There is history and love, but it’s not a historical romance.

In spite of some magical realism, it’s not really a fantasy either. In those days, unusual or exceptional talents may have been attributed to magic, so the lines between what’s supposed to be real and what the characters have imagined are pretty blurry.

It’s the v
Jan 27, 2011 Caitlin rated it did not like it
After reading all the glowing reviews and then tackling the book for myself, I felt kind of like the child that wonders why the emperor has no clothes on. Everyone else can see the elaborate costume, why can't I?

Usually I can understand the love of a critically acclaimed book even if it's not my cup of tea but the writing in The Passion is something I just can't get past. This is an entire book of life changing ponders like "Is every snowflake different? No one knows," and repetitions of other
2 stars for the phantasmagorical imagery and the story.
1 more star for the beautifully done ending and the immensely quotable lines on love and passion the writer seems to have clumsily crammed in to the narrative in the last few pages.
Oct 22, 2016 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2016
Somewhere between fear and sex passion is.

This short novel packs in so much beauty in the intersecting stories of French soldier Henri and daughter of a Venetian boatman, Villanelle. Winterson is a sage, a poet, with each scene, each paragraph containing gorgeous words about love, and the gamble of life and choices made.

Set in the times of the Napoleonic wars, Henri was selected by Bonaparte himself to prepare and serve his nightly chicken. He did this with devotion, and saw horrific death, su
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Three stars for the story, plus an extra star for originality and outstanding writing.

If you like quirky, give this little book a try. It's only 160 pages. It's an odd combination of historical fiction, magical realism, and humor, with some unconventional romantic elements tying it all together.

Henri is a cook/soldier for Napoleon Bonaparte. Villanelle is a bi-sexual, web-footed (yes, web-footed) boatman's daughter in Venice. She has some mystical powers and a penchant for gambling. Circumstanc
Nancy Springer
Feb 07, 2016 Nancy Springer rated it it was amazing
I read several books a week and seldom share with Goodreads because I feel private about my reading. But this slim book by Jeanette Winterson makes me want to shout out to readers everywhere, "This is special! This is superlative magical realism! Read it! Get your hands on a copy and read it now!"
Parts of this unusual read are dark fairy tales, parts are fantasy. I can not even approach conjuring with any sincerity an honest review of the scenes of violence, love, need, meals and fantasy as make up The Passion.

It is almost like a series of unbelieveable disconnected vignettes that the reader visits through a common hallway. I can't describe it except for to say that it is sort of like if Gabriel Garcia Marquez had an older sister who went on tour with the GratefulDead and heard these st
May 04, 2013 Pfanner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tenía el libro por casa, lo compré no sé por qué en el Mercat de Sant Antoni de Barcelona, quizás porque era una novedad de Lumen y me llamó la atención... Pero lo dejé en la biblioteca y me olvidé de él hasta que leí algo sobre la autora en Facebook y recordé que tenía "La pasión", y además decían que precisamente esa novela era la mejor. Me puse con ella y realmente tiene un poder de fascinación importante.

La forma narrativa baraja un par de puntos de vista en primera persona, que se alternan
Aug 31, 2008 Tina rated it really liked it
I found this book gorgeous and compelling. I'm not a big reader of historical fiction, which I guess this is although the embellishments are fantastical. It takes place in the Napoleonic era, weaving together the lives of a French soldier and a web-footed Venetian girl. There is lust here, and passion (hence the title), with a healthy dose of the bizarre (if you loved GEEK LOVE, read this book). It's short at 160 pages. But it was luscious to start reading a book in the morning that I didn't wan ...more
Mar 30, 2009 Danny rated it it was amazing
This book may have single handedly reignited my love of the written word. There were passages so beautifully written I would re-read them the moment I'd finished. Winiterson's writing is complex while still retaining whimsy and comedy. This book doesn't redfine passion, but adds a deeper definition and understanding of how passion is manifested, used and consummed.

Along with a love story comes hiliarous snipits of historcial text paried with fanciful imagery that builds a world matching the mas
Dec 10, 2015 Rola rated it it was amazing
I read Jeanette Winterson's memoir right before reading this. In her memoir (Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal) she frequently reflects on the ways her relationship to love, lovers, time, and family has changed; to go back and read The Passion after reading the memoir, written years apart, felt like doing a close-up on an example of what she was talking about - like reading an old journal to find out the ways you're grown out of certain ways of being in relationships, or looking back and rea ...more
Sep 28, 2014 Caterina rated it liked it
Shelves: book-group
Imaginative, dreamlike style and story, winding and weaving together several tales of passion - in the sense of suffering for love. It reminded me a bit of "Of Love and Other Demons" by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, but this storytelling was less focused, cooler and a bit distracted, which diffused the intensity of the stories it was trying to convey. I had trouble giving this a "number of stars" rating; the story and style were creative and unique, but I can't say that I "really liked" the book; it b ...more
Nov 09, 2014 Lucrezia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

"Questo non è un luogo desolato. Villanelle, che ha la capacità di osservare le cose almeno due volte, mi ha insegnato a trovare la gioia nei luoghi più impensabili e a lasciarmi stupire dalle cose quotidiane. Sapeva sollevarti il morale solo dicendo «Guarda» e ogni volta scoprivi un tesoro."

L' amore è forse il sentimento più complesso al mondo, sicuramente il più variegato, non si smette mai di amare fin quando si muore, e in mille maniere diverse: le prime persone che ami sono i tuoi genitori,
John David
Sep 16, 2014 John David rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Several years ago, I read Jeanette Winterson's “Written On The Body,” which made a tremendous impression on me, and unfortunately I haven't found my way to another Winterson novel until now. What struck me most about her writing then and still what attracts me the most is her command of an innovative, unique style that reminds me of a melange of the best of Robertson Davies, Angela Carter, and Borges. It has a fantastical quality all its own that seems quite separate from magical realism, and in ...more
Reread in July 2016

"I am telling you stories. Trust me."

If you been following my reviews for a while, you know that Jeanette Winterson is my all time favourite author. The Passion was the book that first introduced me to her writing when I was around 15 or 16 and I always considered it to be one of my favourite books since. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to reread it, to see how I would feel about the book today.

Despite the fact that I have changed immensely as a person, The Passion is sti
Wat een mooi, knap geschreven boek. En wat een fantastisch eind. Met “eind” bedoel ik in dit geval niet de laatste paar bladzijden maar het hele vierde deel. Naarmate ik met lezen vorderde, had ik al het gevoel weer een vier-sterren boek in handen te hebben. Het prachtige slot zorgde voor een vijfde ster. Een auteur waarvan ik zeker meer wil gaan lezen. Maar goed, waar gaat The Passion eigenlijk over.

Het boek bestaat uit vier delen. In het eerste deel vertelt Henri zijn verhaal. Hij heeft zich a
Gemma collins
Nov 20, 2007 Gemma collins rated it it was amazing
I tried reading Jeanette Winterson before and was put off for some reason, finding her a little sickly sentimental. After every one of my friends and colleagues who's reading tastes i admire badgering me to read her again and proclaiming their passion for her I read this. I was wrong, this is a beautiful, superbly executed book. She is anything but sentimental; wise, witty and romantic yes but without cliche or self-consciousness. Passion is somewhere between fear and death. There are passages t ...more
Jun 02, 2010 Jill rated it it was ok
I didn't like this book, but it was given to me by my boyfriend at the time so I pretended to like it. That should've been the sign though, right? If someone loans you their favorite book in the world and you don't get it, is that the sign that you don't belong together? I don't have enough data on this subject.

I might've been predetermined not to like it. Julian Barnes is one of my favorite authors and this author, Jeanette Winterson, had an affair with his wife. I adore fidelity and hate home
Feb 11, 2010 Sally rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't love it. Interesting, did like most of it... I don't know what it was about it that made me not love it. The stories were interesting, the places were interesting... not sure. The style, I suppose - just not to my liking.
May 25, 2009 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
This is by far one of the most phenomenal, surreal, gratifying reads in comtemporary world literature. It is the twisted, tangled love story of Henri and Villanelle, two wayward, androgynous 19th century vagabonds who find their destiny in a post-Napoleonic Wars Venice. One of my favorite parts of this book is Winterson's description of Venice:

"There is a city surrounded by water with watery alleys that do for streets and roads and silted up back ways that only the rats can cross. Miss your way,
Jun 10, 2008 maricar rated it liked it
This is certainly a provocative novel. From the gargantuan appetite of Bonaparte for chickens, the ethereal mystery that is the Empress Josephine, the transience of Venice (recall Calvino's Invisible Cities [and no it's not because he's Italian...but hey...]), to the fantastical experiences of Henri and Villanelle, Winterson's novel reveals an incredible world in every chapter. In a way, it made me wonder if such things were indeed experienced in the Napoleonic years--in the back of my mind, I k ...more
Dec 12, 2014 Nicole rated it liked it
I'm hoping to do a "real" review this weekend - I've been ill with migraines (again) most of the past 2 weeks. (Boo) I did want to get some thoughts down in the event that it gets delayed.

The Passion is a pretty quick read - under 200 pages for most editions. It has four parts and two primary characters. Henri is a young soldier who leaves his very small town in France to fight in Napoleon's army and ends up cooking chickens; Villanelle is a cross-dressing young woman in Venice who works in a ca
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Novelist Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester, England in 1959. She was adopted and brought up in Accrington, Lancashire, in the north of England. Her strict Pentecostal Evangelist upbringing provides the background to her acclaimed first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, published in 1985. She graduated from St Catherine's College, Oxford, and moved to London where she worked as an assi ...more
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“The body shuts down when it has too much to bear; goes its own way quietly inside, waiting for a better time, leaving you numb and half alive.” 454 likes
“Whoever it is you fall in love with for the first time, not just love but be in love with, is the one who will always make you angry, the one you can't be logical about.” 433 likes
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