the Cherry is
one of the most extraordinary books I know. In revisiting it, I was struck by
how much of it was still lodged beneath my skin. Ideas about life, language,
time and gender that I thought were my own all lie here. Barely a page goes by
without some revelation or immediately recognisable truth that has both never
crossed your mind before, and yet somehow you have always known.
(of which there isn’t much) follows a giantess and her adopted son, whose
adventures begin in 17th Century London and stretch to the farthest
flung corners of the imagination. To describe it as Magical Realism feels both
accurate and somehow lacking. This is a magic book, and Winterson conjures
through language. Words are slippery; what seemingly begins as metaphor can
talk itself into actuality. Take a line like:
saw the sun rising over the water, and the light got louder and louder until we
were shouting to make ourselves heard.”
"In another’s hand this is just poetry, but in this world the sun may well be shouting."
another’s hand this is just poetry, but in this world the sun may well be
shouting. Over the page words even take physical form:
rising up, form a thick cloud over the city, which every so often must be thoroughly
cleansed of too much language. Men and women in balloons fly up from the main
square and, armed with mops and scrubbing brushes, do battle with the canopy of
words trapped under the sun.”
has also thoroughly cleansed her book of too much language: my paperback runs
to a scant 144 pages, she writes with the punch and economy of a fairytale.
Closer in some ways to poetry than prose, these are plain words well chosen,
and it’s this matter-of-fact approach to the fantastical that makes it so extraordinary.
"she writes with the punch and economy of a fairytale"
the Cherry is not
entirely flawless; there are a few sections in the latter half where story
surrenders entirely to philosophy, and though Winterson’s tender portrayal of
lesbian relationships is second to none, some of her righteous (and arguably
vital) misandry has the unfortunate effect of presenting male homosexuality as
shorthand for stupidity or corruption. That said, I can think of no other book
so stuffed with magic, beauty and original thought. Disappear into it, and
emerge ready for fresh adventures.
Chris is a Sheffield-born playwright, lyricist and
theatre-maker. She has been a resident artist for Sheffield Theatres, the
Oxford Playhouse and the National Theatre Studio, and a member of the Orange
Tree Theatre’s Writers’ Collective.
Past work includes A
Declaration from the People (National Theatre), What We Wished For, A
Dream, The Sheffield Mysteries (Sheffield
Theatres), Larksong (New Vic Theatre), Cards
on the Table (Royal Exchange, Manchester), ODD(Royal & Derngate:
concert performance), Sleight
& Hand(Summerhall/BBC Arts), TONY! The Blair Musical (York
Theatre Royal/Tour), Poking the Bear (Theatre503), The
Bureau of Lost Things (Theatre503/Rose Bruford) and Wolf(National Theatre Studio: reading). She specializes in
musicals, large-scale community work and political theatre that isn’t rubbish.
Chris has won the
National Young Playwrights’ Festival, a Brit Writers’ Award, the Perfect Pitch
Award, two Spotlight Emerging Artists’ Awards and a Kevin Spacey Foundation
Artist of Choice Award. She also teaches playwriting for the National Theatre,
and is a visiting practitioner at the University of York.
Chris’ new musical The
Assassination of Katie Hopkins opens at Theatr Clwyd on 20th April