Sexing the Cherry
Written by Jeanette Winterson
Synopsis: Sexing the Cherry celebrates the power of the imagination as it playfully juggles with our perception of history and reality; love and sex; lies and truths; and twelve dancing princesses who lived happily ever after, but not with their husbands.
Sexing the Cherry was my final read for 2011, and what a magical and incredible book to close the year on! This teeny little book (144 pages) is filled with so much substance, love, magic and imagination that it nearly made my heart explode!
The book takes place in 1600s England with the King Charles, Cromwell/Parliament issue looming in the backdrop. Amongst all the turmoil and challenges and change that London is experiencing, a young baby is discovered beside the river by a giant (literally) woman known only as (the) Dog Woman. The story follows the relationship between Dog Woman and Jordan (she names him after a river because he came from water) and the adventures, highs and lows they both experience, together and in their separate lives.
After viewing the first banana to ever arrive in England, Jordan finds himself obsessed with travelling and exploring, especially by sea. He is apprenticed (sort of) by the King's horticulturist, and after several years spent in Wimbledon with the Dog Woman he takes to the seas exploring the far corners of the world and the many rich experiences that there are to discover. However what he discovers isn't simply the wild and mostly unexplored worlds of the Bahamas or other islands/countries, instead he comes across (face to face or through stories) wonderful magical places like the city where they were plagued by love, or the town where gravity forgot about them and they took to the sky travelling around the world in their town un-moored from the rest of earth. In his searches through these wonderful places he struggles also to find the woman he loves and to understand who he is.
The book is wonderfully written in exquisite prose that would make even the most unimaginative person ascend into clouds of strawberry marshmallow. The characters are multi-dimensional and so real it almost hurts. And because of the loose, not quite linear time-line of the story, it really is the characters who are important, rather than the things going on around them. This book plays with the aspects of traditional storytelling and just pulls all the rules apart and rearranges them into these new and unique ways that makes you question not only the contents of the book, but the concept of time and space and life and magical in your own world. This truly is a wonderful book, and I'm not sure I can really give it justice with my review so I'm just going to finish with a few quotes from the book that just captured my heart and mind and really made me love this book.
*In which Jordan recounts a moment in a town where words literalised in the air around them. He ascends in a balloon and helped a cleaner wash away the words that had amassed in the sky, page 18.
"Towards the end of the day we joined with the other baloons brushing away the last few stray and vagabond words. The sky under the setting sun was the colour of veined marble, and a great peace surrounded us. As we descended through the clean air we saw, passing us by from time to time, new flocks of words coming from people in the streets who, not content with the weight of their lives, continually turned the heaviest of things into the lightest of properties. "*Jordan describes maps and discovering, page 81.
"Maps are magic. In the bottom corner are whales; at the top, cormorants carrying pop-eyed fish. In between is a subjective account of the lie of the land. Rough shapes of countries that may or may not exist, broken red lines marking paths that are a best hazardous, at worst already gone. Maps are constantly being re-made as knowledge appears to increase. But is knowledge increasing or is detail accumulating?"*Jordan discussing the painting "A Hunt in a Forest" and it's relation to his life/lives, page 92.
"When I saw this painting I began by concentrating on the forground figures, and only by degrees did I notice the others, some so faint as to be hardly noticeable. My own life is like this, or, I should say, my own lives. For the most part I can see only the most obvious detail, the present, my present. But sometimes, by a trick of the light, I can more than that. I can see countless lives existing together and receding slowly into the trees."
Yes, so hopefully that gives you a slight taste of the magical literary qualities of this wonderful book and the slight sci-fi, cerebral quality it has regarding time, space and life. A wonderful read that you must experience!