Jeanette Winterson writes beautifully but this book for me lacks a strong cohesive plot to hold it together.
“There’s no such thing as autobiography there’s only art and lies.”
Alternating chapters describe the lives of the three main characters, Handel, a doctor-priest, Picasso, a young woman sexually molested by her brother who paints, and Sappho, the pre-Socratic poet of sexuality.
Handel, the doctor, spent a lot of his career amputating cancerous breasts, and one fateful day cuts off the wrong breast of an ageing prostitute. He could have covered it up being part of an old boy network, cut off the right breast and suggested “complications”.
“The old boy network” he used to call it and he was right, because we were old boys who had never made a success of growing up, and we were netted together, hopelessly, helplessly, forever.
“The secret of life is art.” wrote Oscar Wilde.
There is a lot of wisdom in the pages and characterisation but no cohesive story, it reads at times like a poem and there are episodes of stream of consciousness writing recalling Faulkner.
The sun had dropped on to the roof of the train and bloodied the grey metal.
In the last book I read “Not in the Flesh” by Ruth Rendell I read a subplot revolving around female genital mutilation, and now here there is a look at historic male genital mutilation, looking at the history of castratos.
My rating 3 out of 5