maricar's Reviews > The Passion

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
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's review
Jun 10, 2008

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bookshelves: paranormal, historical-fiction

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 know that Patrick's eagle-eye (with its apparently helpless tendency to zone in on naked bodies), and Villanelle's webbed feet and her once-literally-taken-then-rescued heart are flights of fancy. But even so, Winterson's narrative has that indecipherable mesh of fact and unrealism that a reader can actually think, why not?.

If one were to place emphasis on the themes of physical and emotional casualties brought by war for both the conqueror and the conquered, the intricacies of romantic love, the dialectics of power and blind submission, and the propensity of humans to take refuge in myriad disguises (to the extent they inevitably fall for it themselves), it is evident that this novel, for all its fanciful undertones, touches on very real human issues that would long remain contemporary.

Despite the obvious literary bent of The Passion though, I thought that Winterson sometimes tried a bit too hard in being allegorical. In addition, some parts became overly contemplative and/or philosophical for me that it was at times discomfiting, at most, exasperating. Hence, the 3 stars. But that's just me. In fairness, however, I can readily say that I enjoyed the interactions of, and the dialogues between, the characters. Those were certainly stimulating. All in all, this was a memorable novel, not that great but hardly ignominious. Rather than discourage, I'm hoping to read another of her novels and have a more positive reaction to it.
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