Cassian's Reviews > Written on the Body

Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
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Jun 17, 10

it was ok
Read in June, 2010

Winterson is great at actually telling a story: when describing a person, place, thing, event, or action, her prose sparkles with clarity and wit. If only she had stuck to telling a story in this book! Written on the Body is instead largely composed of a series of torturously long, overwrought passages of proclamations and descriptions of love: metaphor after meaningless metaphor, entire pages that fall as flat as a wet sock and oftentimes ring untrue. The worst of it was the near 20 pages of the narrator extolling the virtues of different parts of his/her lover's body, inside and out, as he/she reads through a medical textbook. It was absolutely unbearable, and it was a great struggle to force myself to read it and not to just skip the entire section -- which I could have easily done and not missed anything of import either about the plot or the characters.

The actual scenes in Written on the Body were engaging and thoughtful. But sadly, large sections of it felt like they were written by a besotted teenager with a flair for the dramatic -- albeit an eloquent teenager, but a teenager nonetheless. I kind of hope that this book was actually a satire that just went over my head.

I had other problems with Written on the Body: mainly, the unbelievability of the central love story. It was hard for me to understand how the narrator fell so deeply in love with Louise in such a short amount of time. Perhaps it's just my personal experiences of and opinions on love informing that incredulity; but perhaps it's the result of the fact that we are never given any hints of what made Louise so lovable, or the two of them so compatible.

I also disliked the ending. I felt it would have been more interesting had it been left open-ended.

Written on the Body was an interesting experiment, perhaps. But for all she writes about love, Winterson doesn't seem to understand that in the arena of the heart (not to mention the novel...), actions speak much louder than words.
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