The Passion
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The Passion

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  10,645 ratings  ·  720 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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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
Aug 05, 2007 Kelly rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
Feb 28, 2009 Jamie rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Mar 04, 2013 Paul rated it 2 of 5 stars
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...more
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...more

So this one had its good and its bad, places where the unconventional prose worked beautifully and other places where it ran off the tracks. Now, this kind of historical fiction, filled with magical descriptions of far off places that are so much more engaging than real life, was my all-consuming love during my high school years. I have returned to this genre with many more books under my belt, and a much more critical eye for faults.

The author enjoys her meaningful phrases, which were stre...more
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.
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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...more
Gemma collins
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
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...more
MB Taylor
Earlier this week I finished reading The Passion (1987) by Jeanette Winterson. Many years ago I read one of Winterson’s later works Written on the Body and liked it so much I bought all of her other works I could find, then (as happens all too frequently) forgot about her. I’d see the books on my shelf and think about reading one, but then something else would catch eye.

Not too long ago Mary checked out 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. We were looking through it to see how 'literate' we
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
How I would have loved this book had Winterson only told the story of Villanelle, the web-footed boatman's daughter. This paragraph lifted from Villanelle's narration sums up my reading of her story. "How is it that one day life is orderly and your are content, a little cynical perhaps but on the whole just so, and then without warning you find the solid floor is a trapdoor and you are now in another place whose geography is uncertain and whose customs are strange?" Yes, Villanelle's Vienna is a...more
Marya Sea
Read this book in two and a half days while traveling between Paris and Italy, a perfect setting to ingest Winterson's vivid rumination on the line between obsession and love. (Warning: This review may contain spoilers from here on out) This is my first introduction to Jeanette Winterson though I have orbited her books for years. The parallel stories she tracks through the turn of the nineteenth century from France to Venice to Moscow and back are both violent and delicate in their description o...more
Stuck inside my UW library copy of the book was a light blue, unlined index card, with slanted capitol letters: "For me you've rendered other men dull and other destinies mediocre..."
When I began reading The Passion, I thought this quote was a beautiful way to explain the changes that occur after you fall in love.
When I finished the book, I re-read it and thought "dull" and "mediocre" are pretty benign criticisms after the intensity of Winterson's expressions- and ah, ha! The quote is not actua...more
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,...more
I have a strange relationship with Jeanette Winterson's writing, really. I think her use of imagery is amazing, and I could get lost in the webs she makes with words, but at the same time, I don't read her work for story or characters -- and when I read, I generally am reading for story or characters, or out of academic interest. Since I'm a medievalist, this doesn't satisfy that latter urge, either.

The Passion has some beautiful imagery, and some fairytale dream-like stories that sparked my int...more
I can't do Jeanette Winterson justice. In keeping with her fairy tale allusions and magical realism, I will say that she has a Midas touch with whatever subject matter she takes up. This novel is comprised to two separate but intertwining stories set during the Napoleonic wars. Frenchman Henri has passion for Napoleon and Venetian croupier Villanelle has a passion for gambling and her lover. But there is so much more to it than that... There are echoes of Italio Calvino's Invisible Cities in Win...more
Sep 19, 2007 Evan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes a story with imagined history and ideas of love
This book was also a one day read. The book is in four parts with basically two narrators, Henri, a young man from a small village who becomes a soldier and cook for Napoleon Bonaparte. He becomes friends with a midget and a defrocked priest. The other narrator is Villanelle, a young woman, who is much wanted but belongs really only to herself. At one point her heart is stolen by an older woman. She gets it back. In her youth, she sometimes dresses as a boy and works at a casino dealing cards an...more
A profoundly odd but beautifully written and haunting book. It is a book that completely defies a plot description as knowing that it involves a french soldier, a Venetian boatmans daughter and their life in the time of Napoleon gives you no sense what so ever on what to expect. The closest I can come to describing it is as a fairy tale meditation on what passion means. And yes that unfortunately does involve magic realism but in way that never distracts from the story but only enhances it.
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.
"They say that every snowflake is different. If that were true, how could the world go on? How could we ever get up off our knees? How could we ever recover from the wonder of it?"

Usually when I'm reading a book and I read a paragraph over and over again, it's because I'm not paying attention. In The Passion, I found myself constantly rereading paragraphs because I could not believe how beautiful they were, how profound, how insightful, how true. How is it that I've reached the ripe old age of 3...more

I loved this book for it's imagination, soul, twists and turns, intrigue and skillful writing. Ah, well, it was more than that! I was beguiled with her writing, as lyrical as any opera. It is fiction, with a story woven about the days of Napoleon, his goals, his armies, his worshiping soldiers. It has plenty of balance, relationships, sexual surprises and love.
The day after I finished reading this, I was fortunate to see an interview of Jeanette Winterson by Bill Moyers on a DVD from the Eugen...more
Kylin Larsson
Winterson has created another work of art in her short and poetic novel, The Passion. The work is divided into four sections that switch back-and-forth between narrators: Henri, a French soldier as passionate about Napoleon as is possible to be, who becomes Napoleon's personal cook, and Villanelle the casino-working, cross-dressing, web-footed daughter of a Venetian boatman.

Henri slowly, over eight sorrowful years of watching other soldiers die, finally loses his faith in Napoleon. Villanelle gi...more
This was the only book of my astounding Contemporary Literature class in college that didn't grab my attention upon first reading it. Having since been to Venice, and recalling that the novel's main setting was in the city of changing mazes, I decided to give it a second chance.

Thank God for maturity.

Although a small book that is encountered and dispatched quickly, Winterson includes many themes that are valuable in one's general appreciation of literature. As you may expect, the concept of Pass...more
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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
More about Jeanette Winterson...
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Written on the Body Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Sexing the Cherry Lighthousekeeping

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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.” 373 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.” 369 likes
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