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Sexing the Cherry
ISBN 0676973485 / 9780676973488 / 0-676-97348-5
Publisher Vintage, Random
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Set in 17th century London, Sexing the Cherry is about the journeys taken by the boisterous Dog-Woman and her son Jordan: journeys across seas to find bananas and pineapples; journeys through time that weave snatches of the present with tales of Charles 1 and Oliver Cromwell; journeys in search of the self. As mothers go, the Dog-Woman takes some beating. She's a giant, wrapped in a skirt that could "serve as a sail for some wartorn ship" and strong enough to fling an elephant into the air. She's hideous too, with smallpox scars on her face where fleas live, a flat nose and black, broken teeth. To top it all, she's a "fantasist, a liar and a murderer". But her son, Jordan, is proud of her--who else has a mother who can hold a dozen oranges in her mouth at once?
Like the best of Winterson's writing, such as Oranges are not the Only Fruit and The Passion, the novel is engaging, ambitious and contrary. Alongside a hearty historical realism, young girls swoon in locked towers that don't exist, islands slip sideways in time and mysterious diseases wipe out towns and cities. Even though Sexing the Cherry is short, it is impossible to read it in a straight line--fairy tales and dreams run in and out of the text and it's hard to resist chasing them. There is an exceptional playfulness at work too--an unravelling of the most solid of historical facts and fantastically unconventional fairy tales in which princesses smash the skulls of their princes with silver candlesticks or become worn and grey "like old sweaters". --Jane Honey [via]