The Passion

The Passion

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Henri had a passion for Napoleon and Napoleon had a passion for chicken. From Boulogne to Moscow Henri butchered for his Emperor and never killed a single man. With a de-frocked priest and a midget groom, Henri witnessed the scourge of Europe. In Venice, the city of chance and disguises, a great beauty was born with the webbed feet of her boatman father. In the casino, Villanelle learned that what people risk reveals what they value - she gambled her heart and lost. For eight years the soldier-chef watched young men die and his love for Napoleon turned to hate. Passion does not take disappointment well. He found the Venetian beauty whose heart was lost and together they fled frozen Russia to the canals of darkness and more

Product details

  • Paperback | 176 pages
  • 128 x 194 x 16mm | 81.65g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition.
  • 0099734419
  • 9780099734413
  • 39,803

Flap copy

Set during the tumultuous years of the Napoleonic Wars, "The Passion intertwines the destinies of two remarkable people: Henri, a simple French soldier, who follows Napoleon from glory to Russian ruin; and Villanelle, the red-haired, web-footed daughter of a Venetian boatman, whose husband has gambled away her heart. In Venice's compound of carnival, chance, and darkness, the pair meet their singular destiny. In her unique and mesmerizing voice, Winterson blends reality with fantasy, dream, and imagination to weave a hypnotic tale with stunning more

Review quote

"It's a fantasy, a vivid dream... inventive and brilliant" Guardian "As moving and funny as it is skilful, and reflects the author's formiddable appetite for life" Sunday Times "A book of great imaginative audacity and assurance...brilliantly physical (and funny) detail" Times Literary Supplement "Its concentrated, beautifully detailed prose recalls the diction of fairy tales; its plot incorporates their magic, their shrewd wit and brutality...a deeply imagined and beautiful book, often arrestingly so" New York Times "Lyrical prose penetrates to the heart of things... She knows how to speak plain truth and at the same time satisfy our longing for the fabulous. She's telling you stories. Trust her" Washington Postshow more

About Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson OBE is the author of ten novels, including Oranges are not the Only Fruit, The Passion and Sexing the Cherry; a book of short stories, The World and Other Places; a collection of essays, Art Objects as well as many other works, including children's books, screenplays and journalism. Her writing has won the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel, the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize, the E. M. Forster Award and the Prix d'argent at Cannes Film Festival. She lives in London and Gloucestershire. To find out more visit her website at more

Review Text

An exhilarating tale of lust, love and magical transformations of the heart during ten years of the Napoleonic Wars, first published in England in 1987. Three of four sections of this slim, crisp, dreamy novel are narrated by Henri, a young French foot-soldier whom Napoleon chooses over a fat cook one fateful day in 1805 to be the keeper of his personal larders as the French army begins its forced march east to the "zero" Russian winter of defeat: the third section is told by Villanelle, a cardsharp in conquered Venice whose marriage to (and betrayal of) a grotesquely fat, sinister foreign gambler ends in her being sold to Napoleon's officer corps as a traveling whore. In Russia, she and Henri meet as the French army is collapsing and the Russian countryside is erupting in flames; with Patrick, a wildly visionary defrocked Irish priest, they flee, making their way back to Venice. Patrick dies in the cold: Henri falls in love with Villanelle, whose marriage to the fat gambler (as well as a previous love affair with a queenlike Venetian matron) causes trouble for both of them once they reach Villanelle's old home. Henri is dispatched by gondolier to steal back Villanelle's living heart from the palazzo of "the Queen of Spades," and having replaced it in her breast, murders her fat husband (the cook whom he bested in France) to keep it there. Then he goes mad, and, like Napoleon himself, is locked away in an island prison to contemplate his "passion," and Napoleon's and human kind's, evermore, while Villanelle rows below daily in a boat. The moral: One doesn't know what he or she loves best until it has been risked in a final, deadly gamble - by a fascinating, Robertson Davies-like writer in full possession of her considerable powers here. (Kirkus Reviews)show more
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