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Written on the Body

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  15,807 ratings  ·  1,117 reviews
The most beguilingly seductive novel to date from the author of The Passion and Sexing the Cherry. Winterson chronicles the consuming affair between the narrator, who is given neither name nor gender, and the beloved, a complex and confused married woman. "At once a love story and a philosophical meditation."--New York Times Book Review.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published February 1st 1994 by Vintage (first published 1992)
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Best Lesbian Fiction
20th out of 1,081 books — 1,321 voters
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Best Gay Fiction
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When you fall in love with someone, I mean really fall, you become obsessed with the things that are written on the body. The scar on her elbow from when she tripped over the curb, the chip in his tooth from when he fell from his skateboard… that tiny birthmark behind her knee. Each mark tells a story. Knowing the story brings you closer. The burn mark on her hand from when she
Apr 07, 2008 Anne rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: romantics
You know how it is when your friends fall madly in love with someone (a new girlfriend), or something (Guitar Hero, Battlestar Galactica), and wear you out during the honeymoon phase babbling on about his/her/its awesomeness, sometimes in excruciating detail? If you're not in a similar situation, or worse, wish you were, it's damn near unendurable.

For God's sake, don't read this book unless you can stand to read about sheer, uninhibited passion, often in graphic detail. The pointedly genderless
Sep 18, 2007 Evan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who loves love
I was reading thru some of the reviews for this book. I'll just say that it's beautifully written. This book moved me. I cried with about twenty pages to go. My heart expanded and ached a little bit. I felt for the narrator (who we have to guess woman or man?) and for Louise. I love the narrator. This book is about love, relationships, loss, and is a bit hope filled at the end. The opening sentence: Why is the measure of love loss? and the book takes you from there. I finished it in a day. Not a ...more
Her artistry makes my mouth drop open. The most poetic, passionate, erotic book, it sits on my shelf with Duras' The Lover and Rikki Ducornet's The Word Desire and Anne Carson's The Beauty of the Husband. But it could also be shelved with Proust's Swann's Way for the sensual cling of memory and Chekhov's Lady with the Lapdog for its sadness. The poetry of its prose is incomparable. A meditation on sensual life and the meaning of love. As Carson said, 'Beauty is what makes sex, sex." A lover of u ...more
I tried really hard to like Jeanette Winterson, because most of the women I respect think she is amazing. But I just think she is fumbling and kind of incompetent. And for me her charisma, great passion, and several devastating one-liners don't compensate for her imprecision, scattered incoherence, or the clamminess of her authorial 'I.'

Can't do it.

(Wait, don't leave! I like Anais Nin. Seriously...)
Jan 28, 2008 Liv rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: adults
Shelves: contemporary-lit
I don't believe I've ever read anyone who writes quite like Jeanette Winterson. She writes with a kind of sensuality that leaps over the conventional, making it arousing and painfully sad at the same time. It is incredible how she has managed to write a book in which you know not even the gender of the main character, but you know their emotions as intimately as if they were your own. After a single reading of this book, it became one of my favorites; not because the story is tragic (and it is), ...more
Excerpts from reflections I wrote for "Gender, Bodies, and the Medical Establishment":

"One of the first things that struck me upon reading Written on the Body (besides the fact that the narrator—and possibly Winterson herself—is totally fat-phobic) is that the narrator’s love for Louise is almost completely situated upon her body. Which is fine and exciting until the story is complicated by other bodies, like Gail’s, which the narrator finds distasteful. It is then on us as readers to begin a cr
Jan 09, 2009 marissa rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who talk incessantly about their love affairs to bored overly-polite friends
Recommended to marissa by: i read this for a class
Gah -- I found this insufferably narcissistic and eye-rolling to read, devoid of any sympathetic characters save the zoo-lady Jacqueline, and incredibly unsatisfying in every way. The only reason I gave it two stars is because Winterson obviously has talent -- there were a few places where the imagery was striking enough to pierce my annoyance -- and clearly this is a matter of taste and preference. It's technically and emotionally proficient, but just doesn't resonate with me personally.
Ricevete un regalo.
Aprite il cofanetto.
All'interno di esso, una collana di lavorazione sublime, di perle splendenti.
Mentre la mirate e rimirate, sbadatamente la vostra collana vi cade dalle mani il moschettone si rompe e le perle fuggono via, inseguendosi o forse sfuggendosi, comunque andando via da voi.
Voi cercate di raccoglierle, ma son tutte belle, addirittura forse ci sono perle più belle, più lucide che vorreste raccogliere più di altre.

Perché è la perdita la misura dell'amore?

Questa è la
In Written on the body il narratore non ha nome né genere. Questo espediente ha causato mille diverse interpretazioni, ha infiammato le discussioni degli appassionati dei gender studies; le femministe hanno allora eletto la loro paladina contemporanea, credendo che il narratore fosse una lesbica; quelli che non simpatizzano con il femminismo si sono arrabbiati perché hanno visto in questo libro solo una stucchevole storia d’amore e hanno reputato l’espediente del narratore senza genere una furba ...more
Once you've brained your mortality, salivated about an affair, or lost a loved one, Written on the Body I believe goes from 4 to 5 star worthy, climbs from a tawdry tale to a lovingly wrought prose poem. More contemporary than Graham Greene's The End of the Affair this narrative questions the responsibility of lovers to one another.

At the beginning one is certain the narrator female, but by midway testosterone seems to bitterly flavor the advance. However you take this tender sexless narrator (
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jun 09, 2007 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: read07, favorites
This was an amazing book. It starts out as a story of an affair, but the second half is more of a memory about or a lovestory to the lover's body. It's impossible to tell whether the storyteller is a man or woman, but this is so well written - sad, reflective, happy, joyful - it works through every emotion. I will have to buy it for myself.

A few quotes that were meaningful to me:

"I will taste you if only through your cooking."

"When I say 'I will be true to you' I am drawing a quiet space beyond
A word is dead,
When it is said
Some say
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.
(Emily Dickinson)

"Voglio che tu venga a me senza passato. Le frasi che hai imparato, dimenticale. Dimentica di aver frequentato altre stanze da letto, altri luoghi. Vieni da me come fosse la prima volta. Non dire mai che mi ami, fino al giorno in cui non me lo dimostri. Ci eravamo incontrati perché doveva succedere e anche se non fosse stato quel giorno, prima o poi ci saremmo sicuramente incontrati da qualche altra part
Simply put, this is the story of someone (man or woman, who knows? My guess is man, but it doesn't really matter) who is in love with a woman named Louise. They have to overcome a series of hurdles, such as their relationships with other people and a terminal disease.

It's a very quick read - I blazed through this in about 2-3 days of reading on the subway. A quick reader could probably finish in one day of dedicated reading. However, despite how easy it is to read, it's also a little overwhelmin
This book contains one of my favorite passages of all time; here's a little excerpt:

"When I say 'I will be true to you' I am drawing a quiet space beyond the reach of other desires. No-one can legislate love; it cannot be given orders or cajoled into service. Love belongs to itself, deaf to pleading and unmoved by violence. Love is not something you can negotiate. Love is the one thing stronger than desire and the only proper reason to resist temptation....

When I say 'I will be true to you' I m
Dan Robinson
This was a very provocative read for me. There were challenges to what is left of my sense of right and wrong in relationships, there is again that great question of what makes life meaningful and whether one needs another for there to be real meaning in life. Actually, maybe that is not the question the author struggles with - it may be more that real passion in life comes with relationship with another and that respecting that is the real ethic in living. The book ends with several pages of re ...more
This book was my first introduction to Jeanette Winterson's work. I read it in college for a class on contemporary fiction. I have to admit, I was blown away by her writing style, it is so unique. This book moved me to no end. I didn't care if the narrator was male or female, it really didn't matter. The way Jeanette was able to craft the words on paper to make me feel what the narrator was feeling and experiencing was what made this book memorable to me. Now I'm totally hooked.
"I segni delle tue mani li ho impressi su tutto il corpo. La tua carne è la mia carne. Mi hai decifrato e adesso sono un libro aperto. Il messaggio è semplice: il mio amore per te. Voglio che tu viva. Perdona i miei sbagli. Perdonami."

Un romanzo sull'amore, viscerale e trascendente. Quando si parla di "Scritto sul corpo" si fa sempre riferimento all'ambiguo io-narrante, non si sa mai se si tratta di un uomo o di una donna. L'autrice ha fatto questa scelta perché, davvero, non le importa: non le

Simona Bartolotta
Ne valeva la pena. L'amore ne vale la pena.

L'amore magari sì, ma questo libro penso proprio di no.

Personalmente, sono sempre stata del parere che per apprezzare appieno un libro bisogna anche leggerlo nel momento giusto della propria vita. Questo per me non è stato affatto il momento giusto per "Scritto sul corpo". Pensate di me ciò che volete, definitemi insensibile, disattenta o tutto quello che vi passa per la testa, ma io tra queste pagine ho trovato solo una miriade di questi famosi cliché
I feel like Jeanette Winterson is someone I'm supposed to like, but in reality, I find her work to be frustratingly uneven and myopic. Maybe I'm not highbrow enough for her stuff, or maybe it's just too naval-gazing! This prompted some interesting discussion in my book group, though. Some people adored the nonspecificity of the narrator's gender. I thought it came off as a bit of a literary trick, though. Still, it was interesting that all the lesbian readers thought the narrator was female, and ...more
At first I thought this was a book to match my experiences, a book about being deserted. Then you figure out it's a book about the deserter, who is harder to sympathize with when you know that type in life. In a lot of ways I don't sympathize with the central, nameless character. S/he never got any closer to unraveling his/her inability to let him/herself be loved. But then people who have that problem can't answer it in life. Writing this, I feel hostile toward the character. When I read it, I, ...more
This is not a novel in the usual sense.
The narrator sounds at first like a man
then later like a woman. He/she has no particular
characteristics of her/his own apart from a voice.
The plot is also barely there. Narrator is having an
affair with one woman, meets another, falls in love.
Lover leaves husband. Narrator learns that lover has
cancer and that only Estranged Husband can cure her.
(No surprise in an English novel, the semi-vile Husband
just happens to be Jewish.)
Narrator leaves lover, regrets he
Vivek Tejuja
Books read at an impressionable age always leave you astounded. You cannot get more of them. You reread them at various stages in life and if it manages to evoke similar feelings in you, like the first time, then the book maybe is meant for you. Few books fit into this category. Fewer books make it there from the hundreds and thousands of books we read in a lifetime. It is almost like a personal treasure – this small collection that touches you every time you pick any book from it. For me, a lot ...more
MJ Nicholls
For epicurean lesbians and logorrhoeic romantics everywhere.
There is a lot of beauty in this book. Every sentence is like a poem. You can feel the care and attention that went into every choice of word. For the first few pages, I was blown away and thought I had discovered a new favourite writer. But towards the end my enthusiasm faded. I felt like a diner who’s gorged on desserts and longs for some plain old bread and water to settle the stomach.

I’ve felt this before, where writing is very ornate. Arundhati Roy comes to mind. It seems wonderful at first
***I've never done this before but I just upgraded this review from 2 to a whopping 4 stars. I just felt that I haven't been fair; I can't continually quote this book in other places (which I have done repeatedly), not to mention put it in my most highly regarded "books that halt time" shelf, yet stand by my 2 star rating without appearing hypocritical. I've had this problem with other books - Blindness by Saramago comes to mind - not particularly enjoying all its bits but finding its entire bas ...more
Lara Messersmith-Glavin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hayley DeRoche
Poetic and lyrical at times, and at other times a jumble of feelings -- it is both beautiful and over-done, too. But then, when one is writing about the essence of love, what it is to love, what it is to lose and what it is to grieve that which was loved, and to question the very nature of one's love, I can't think of a way to do so succinctly without an occasional mad rambling.

Take, for example, this bit: "You face gores me. I am run through. Into the holes I pack splinters of hope but hope do
Sasha Martinez
Is there such a thing as “too much lyricism”? I like to think so, yes–especially when I’m bombarded with it page after page after page. Metaphor after metaphor after metaphor had me saying WTF one too many times.

But I ended up liking it. It took a while for me to do so, but I liked it well enough. Which puzzles me, really.

In the novel–and I use that loosely, mind you–we have the Unnamed, Un-Gendered Narrator, a person intent on loving and lusting and obsessing, although one who confesses that,
The world is seen through the lens of gender. Most people don’t realise this, but when you think about it you will see gender everywhere. For example when a baby is born; the most important question is that of the sex. It apparently means something if it is a boy or a girl, we link it with certain prepositions. Whether you are a man or a woman, tells us (at least we think it does) about your life, likes and chances. The novel of Jeanette Winterson is an exploration into the importance of the sex ...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 Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? The Passion Sexing the Cherry Lighthousekeeping

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“You’ll get over it…” It’s the clichés that cause the trouble. To lose someone you love is to alter your life for ever. You don’t get over it because ‘it” is the person you loved. The pain stops, there are new people, but the gap never closes. How could it? The particularness of someone who mattered enough to grieve over is not made anodyne by death. This hole in my heart is in the shape of you and no-one else can fit it. Why would I want them to?” 2102 likes
“What you risk reveals what you value.” 620 likes
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