Jeanette Winterson has come in for a lot of flak for being bumptious. Since she chose her own novel as her Book of the Year in a national newspaper, and announced on television that she considers herself the natural heir to Virginia Woolf, the media have enjoyed cocking a snook at her whenever possible. She has appeared in Pseuds Corner and in countless quotes of the week, month, year. Other novelists have joked, in private, about starting an annual award in her name, to be bestowed upon the most immodest of their profession. But the fact is that she has a point. Even at her worst (which in her last novel, Written on the Body, she was) she’s still very good indeed. And at her best (The Passion and Sexing the Cherry) she is sublime: utterly original, daring, witty and tender.
Journalists may wince at Winterson’s intensity, but readers do not: she has an immense following. A summary of any of her plots would nevertheless sound outlandish, and it would be easy to make her writing seem pretentious by quoting her out of context. Some critics have jibbed at her vast