Friday, 27 March 2009
Title: The Passion
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Number of pages: 160
Started: 25 March 2009
Finished: 27 March 2009
It was Napoleon who had such a passion for chicken that he kept his chefs working around the clock. What a kitchen that was, with birds in every state of undress; some still cold and slung over hooks, some turning slowly on the spit, but most in wasted piles because the Emperor was busy.
Odd to be so governed by an appetite.
It was my first commission. I started as a neck wringer and before long I was the one who carried the platter through inches of mud to his tent. He liked me because I am short. I flatter myself. He did not dislike me. He liked no one except Josephine and he liked her the way he liked chicken.
No one over five foot two ever waited on the Emperor. He kept small servants and large horses. The horse he loved was seventeen hands high with a tail that could wrap round a man three times and still make a wig for his mistress. That horse had the evil eye and there's been almost as many dead groom sin the stable as chickens on the table. The ones the beast didn't kill itself with an easy kick, its master had disposed of because its coat didn't shine or the bit was green.
This is the story of Henri, a young Frenchman sent to fight in the Napoleonic wars. It is the story of Villanelle, a cross-dressing Venetian woman, born with webbed feet. There are four sections: The Emperor. The Queen of Spades. The Zero Winter. The Rock. Told in the first-person, The Emperor is Henri's narrative, while The Queen of Spades belongs to Villanelle. The pair meet in Russia in The Zero Winter. From then the narratives switch and intertwine.
The Passion isn't an historical novel. It uses history as invented space. The Passion is set in a world where the miraculous and the everyday collide. Villanelle can walk on water. The woman she loves steals her heart and hides it in a jar. This is the city of mazes. You may meet an old woman in a doorway. She will tell your fortune depending on your face. The Passion is about war, and the private acts that stand against war. It's about survival and broken-heartedness, and cruelty and madness.
What you risk reveals what you value.
Meet Patrick, the drunken Irish look-out whose left eye can see for 20 miles. Ride out with Domino, Napoleon's midget groom. Travel to Venice and be seduced by a mysterious and beautiful woman. Find your own disguise and wear it.
Summary taken from Jeanette Winterson’s website.
What I thought:
I have to say I was not a huge fan of this book. It was an ok read, but I found the switching narrative broke the flow of the book and I didn’t really get into the story very well. I much preferred “Oranges are not the only fruit” but this book was a totally different style and a bit too odd for my liking.