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Boating for Beginners

Jeanette Winterson

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Title: Boating for Beginners
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Genre: Novel
Written: 1985
Length: 160 pages
Availability: Boating for Beginners - US
Boating for Beginners - UK
Boating for Beginners - Canada
Boating for Beginners - India

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Our Assessment:

B+ : clever and amusing variation on the Genesis story

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The complete review's Review:

       Winterson's freewheeling mix of modernity and biblical antiquity make for a most unusual variation on the Genesis story. Remorselessly she reinvents the tale.
       Noah runs a "thriving little pleasure boat company called Boating for Beginners" on the Tigris and Euphrates. Life isn't too bad, until a huge hand hands him a leaflet from on high. God has made his presence felt, and Noah takes up his cause down on earth, seeing a good way to earn a buck.
       It is while touring the ancient lands with his Glory Crusade that he makes an impression on the pregnant Mrs. Munde who naturally decides to name her child Gloria. Gloria grows up and seeks her way in the world. A bizarre little world it is, half modern, half ancient, with God collaborating with the not always helpful astute modern businessman Noah, and the only somewhat worldly Mrs. Munde and her daughter cogs in the big capitalist machine. Matters are complicated by the fact that Noah accidentally created the incarnation of the Unpronounceable "out of a piece of gâteau [Black Forest] and a giant electric toaster" (that's the kind of world this is), and the two have an uneasy relationship. Noah realizes: "He's powerful beyond measure but he doesn't know which knife to use for pâté", so he still has some sort of hold over the almighty.
       God decides on the big flood, because it makes for a better story than the cake-and-toaster variation, and so the world (and the myths) begin anew. Noah naturally organizes the event, with middling success.
       It is an amusing tale, with some hilarious incongruities. Bizarre scenes abound: Gloria, for example, is all excited when she sees Northrop Frye floating by from the ark ("I read your book and it changed my life," she yells to the receding figure). Noah's collaboration on God's books, and the efforts to film the great epic are amusing, and Winterson gets in enough digs at modern politics and especially capitalism. An entertaining read, a well-written lark, properly undermining so much of modern (and religious) life. Recommended.

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Boating for Beginners: Reviews: Jeanette Winterson: Other books by Jeanette Winterson under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction

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About the Author:

       British author Jeanette Winterson was born in 1959. She won the 1985 Whitbread Award for best first novel (for Oranges are not the only Fruit), the 1987 John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize, and the 1989 E.M.Forster Award, among others.

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