Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Weight - Jeanette Winterson

'Weight' is my first proper introduction to Jeanette Winterson (I think I've read a short story before) which is long overdue. I've always enjoyed reading or listening to her being interviewed, and genuinely have no idea why I've avoided her books for so long. It's also the first of the myth series I've read where I wasn't specifically interested in the story beforehand - the ones I've read have generally been picked up because I'm interested in the myth, the author has been more or less irrelevant.

I think because of this I hadn't really considered how much of a personal choice each myth is to it's author. My interest in the ones I'd read made them seem like obvious choices for anyone to take on, but the story of Atlas is one that I wasn't especially familiar with, or that had any particular resonance. It does for Winterson though, who knew immediately that this was the myth she wanted to retell, and has done so in a way that incorporates autobiography from time to time.

Like 'The Penelopiad' this is a short book, something that can easily be read in an afternoon, but which has more in it than seems possible for the word count. The retelling of the familiar bits - the story of Atlas, and Heracles, who takes on his burden in return for a job he needs doing, before tricking Atlas into taking the world back onto his shoulders again before he's quite ready - are earthy and funny. Bawdy, even, but all the time there's the question why?

Why accept limits, why accept these tasks, why accept this punishment, why not walk away? For Winterson personally there's also the question of why Atlas. The ending isn't traditional, or what I might have expected but it made me happy.

I'm torn here about giving the ending away, the book's been out for years so spoilers don't seem unreasonable, and yet for once I feel that giving away the ending would spoil things, at least for the next reader like me.

Perhaps better just to say that I really loved this book, and everything about it, and that I'm really looking forward to reading more Winterson.


  1. I’ve never got on with Winterson’s fiction, although her autobiography and the short essays she used to write for the Times I really enjoyed. I didn’t know about this so maybe I should try it and see if it gives me a way into her other books.

    1. I really liked it. I'd got into the habit of assuming she wasn't for me, but this makes me want to look through her backlist and think again, so I'd definitely recommend giving it a go.

  2. I enjoyed this one, and typically, she finds a new way of telling the story with her parallel strand - as she says "I want to tell the story again."

  3. And I want to read it again! I'm still thinking my way through this and finding more all the time. I liked how playful it was. It was also good to read it alongside The Penelopiad and Circe. All different, but touching on similar ideas - or at least Circe touches on ideas explored in both the Myth books.