About this title:
Henri had a passion for Napoleon and Napoleon had a passion for chicken. From Boulogne to Moscow Henri butchered for his Emperor and never killed a single man. With a de-frocked priest and a midget groom, Henri witnessed the scourge of Europe. In Venice, the city of chance and disguises, a great beauty was born with the webbed feet of her boatman father. In the casino, Villanelle learned that what people risk reveals what they value - she gambled her heart and lost. For eight years the soldier-chef watched young men die and his love for Napoleon turned to hate. Passion does not take disappointment well. He found the Venetian beauty whose heart was lost and together they fled frozen Russia to the canals of darkness and paradox.
In 1985 Jeanette Winterson won the Whitbread Award for best first fiction for the semi-autobiographical Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, an often wry exploration of lesbian possibility bumping up against evangelical fanaticism. She was 25. Two years later, The Passion, her third novel, appeared, the fantastical tale of Henri--Napoleon's cook--and Villanelle, a Venetian gondolier's daughter who has webbed feet (previously an all-male attribute), works as a croupier, picks pockets, cross-dresses, and literally loses her heart to a beautiful woman. Written in a lyrical and jolting combination of fairy tale diction and rhythm and the staccato, the book would be a risky proposition in lesser hands. Winterson has said that she wanted to look at people's need to worship and examine what happens to young men in militaristic societies. The question was, how to do so without being polemical and didactic? Only she could have come up with such an exquisite answer. In the end, Henri, incarcerated on an island of madmen, becomes aware that his passion, "even though she could never return it, showed me the difference between inventing a lover and falling in love. The one is about you, the other about someone else."
From the Back Cover:
"An explosively imaginative writer." — The London Free Press
"A historical novel quite different from any other...written with a living passion, an eyewitness immediacy.... Winterson is a master of her material, a writer in whom great talent deeply abides." — Vanity Fair
"Recalls Garcia Marquez.... Magical touches dance like highlights over the brilliance of this fairy tale about passion, gambling, madness, and androgynous ecstasy." — Edmund White
"The overwhelming impression of her work is one of remarkable self-confidence, and she evidently thrives on risk.... As good as Poe: it dares you to laugh and stares you down."— The New York Review of Books
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