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 daughter of a Venetian boatman, who has lost her heart to a... read more
The book weaves together the stories of two extremely different people. The first is a naive French farm boy who is enthralled with Napoleon Bonaparte's promises and enlists in his army only to end up being the general's serving boy and food taster. The second is an adventurous, completely... read more
The book weaves together the stories of two extremely different people. The first is a naive French farm boy who is enthralled with Napoleon Bonaparte's promises and enlists in his army only to end up being the general's serving boy and food taster. The second is an adventurous, completely independent young Venetian woman who has fallen passionately in love with a married woman, married a gambler to escape her despair, and then turned to prostitution with Napoleon's army to escape her brutal and revolting husband. The unlikely pair first cross paths in the frozen wasteland of Russia, just as the boy has become wholly disillusioned with Napoleon and the endless war. They flee back to Venice where the boy helps retrieve the young woman's heart from her lover only to be confronted by an enemy they happen to share. Oddly for a study of passion, the book is nearly clinical in its dispassionate descriptions of its two protagonists and their responses to the challenges they each face. Nonetheless, Winterson's observation about war, love, sex, and gambling are insightful and thought-provoking.
“When I think of that night, here in this place where I will always be, my hands tremble and my muscles ache. I lose all sense of day or night, I lose all sense of my work, writing this story, trying to convey to you what really happened. Trying not to make up too much. I can think of it by mistake, my eyes blurring the words in front of me, my pen lifting and staying lifted, I can think of it for hours and yet it is always the same moment I think of. Her hair as she bent over me, red with streaks of gold, her hair on my face and chest and looking up at her through her hair. She let it fall over me and I felt I was lying in the long grass, safe.”
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