Reading English, Reading Experience

Jeanette Winterson on BBC Radio 4 Book Club

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Listen now on BBC 4

About Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette was born in Manchester, UK, in 1959. Her mother was 17, and worked in a factory called Raffles, sewing overcoats for Marks and Spencer.

1 of 10 children herself, Ann couldn’t keep her new daughter and she was adopted by Jack and Constance Winterson who raised her in the nearby town of Accrington.

Constance Winterson, circa 1945

Jeanette’s new parents were Pentecostals – a religious evangelical group who read the Bible more or less literally, and believe in the Second Coming of Christ and the End of the World.

Jeanette was raised to be a missionary. Books were not allowed at home unless they were religious books. As Mrs Winterson pointed out, ‘The trouble with a book is that you never know what’s in it till it’s too late.’

There were only 6 books in the house, including the Bible, and Cruden’s Concordance to the Bible. But there was another book – an accident, a chance – Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. These stories of the Grail, of Lancelot and Guinevere, of Arthur and the Round Table became as central to Jeanette’s imagination as the Bible.

Jeanette attended a girls’ grammar school – Accrington High School For Girls, and later read English at St Catherine’s College Oxford.