Lost love is a popular theme in literature, from the plays of William Shakespeare to the novels of Barbara Cartland to the poetry of - well just about everyone.
The 'love found, love lost, love found' format is also exceedingly popular in romantic fiction, its prevalence perhaps explained by its guarantee of a happy ending.
However, literary fiction with a romantic theme doesn't necessarily follow the same rules, so - reader beware! - a happy ending is not always guaranteed!
Audio extract from the start of Written on the Body, read by author Jeanette Winterson.
Drought can symbolise death, starvation, sadness and sickness, and conversely the lack of a particular element such as love, sex, or happiness.
This is a quote from William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest (Act I, scene ii). Caliban is an island native who becomes a slave of the magician Prospero. Caliban is often referred to as being a monster or a savage, worshipping what he doesn't understand.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a novel written by Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) in 1865. Alice is a little girl who falls down a rabbit hole into Wonderland, a place where animals talk, nonsense is normal, and fantasy and reality merge. At one point she finds herself playing croquet with a life-size pack of cards, using flamingos as croquet mallets and hedgehogs as balls. Alice is never quite sure about the rules in Wonderland, as they seem to keep changing.
Ophelia by John Everett Millais shows the drowned Ophelia floating on her back in a river, her skin pale and creamy and her red hair spread out around her head.
Charing Cross is an area of Westminster, in London, England. It falls within the main roads of the Strand, Embankment, and Whitehall, and is not far from Trafalgar Square.
Nelson's Column is a monument built in the 1840s to commemorate Horatio Nelson's death at the Battle of Trafalgar. The column, topped by a statue of Nelson, is over 50 metres high. It stands in Trafalgar Square and is a popular tourist destination.
This paraphrases a line by the philosopher John Stuart Mill, from his publication Utilitarianism (1863):
"It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question."
Ella Fitzgerald was an American jazz singer, whose career spanned from the 1930s to the 1960s. Lady Sings the Blues is a song written by jazz artists Billie Holiday and Herbie Nichols. It features on the Ella Fitgerald and Billie Holiday At Newport album.
Listen on Spotify: Lady Sings the Blues
The Open University is a UK university dedicated to 'supported distance-learning'. It is also known for having an open entry policy, meaning that no previous academic qualifications are needed in order to study there.
The Register Office in England and Wales is the office for the registration of births, marriages and deaths. It is often (incorrectly) referred to as The Registry Office.
Oxfam is an international organisation that works to 'eradicate poverty and combat injustice'. Oxfam has around 750 charity shops in the UK, selling donated second-hand items such as clothes and books, as well as new fair-trade goods. The proceeds from these shops go towards funding Oxfam's work.
Flaubert famously changes Emma Bovary's eye colour several times throughout the text, variously suggesting her eyes are black, brown, and blue.
In Written on the Body, this reference is the first hint of many that the narrator may be unreliable, misremembering, or getting details confused.
'Inquisition' refers to one of several historical tribunals within the Catholic Church that were responsible for prosecuting individuals on heresy-related charges.
The narrator of Written on the Body is of unspecified gender, but throughout the text Winterson leaves a trail of hints and signs, teasing the reader and forcing a constant re-evaluation of our conception of the narrator.
A genie (or djinn) is a supernatural entity, originating in Arab mythology. In modern mythology, a genie freed from imprisonment in a lamp grants the bearer three wishes.
British Rail was the operator of the UK's national railways until it was divided and privatised in the 1990s.
The Scottish National Party is a political party committed to Scottish independence. Currently, the SNP is in power in Scotland, with a minority government.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir did indeed claim that he painted with his penis.
The narrator makes this story ridiculous by taking it a step further. This suggests that s/he is happy to tell a tall-tale to a lover, as well as to the reader, further stretching his/her credibility as a reliable narrator.
A Nissen hut is a structure built in the shape of a half-cylinder, usually with a sheet-metal roof.
Nissen huts were widely used in World War II.
Strangers in the Night was written by Ivo Robić, and recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1966.
Listen on Spotify: Strangers in the Night
Winterson is making a joke by combining the term 'doubting Thomas' (someone who refuses to believe without hard evidence) with the term 'John Thomas' (British slang for 'penis').
The Women's Institute, or WI, is the largest women's organisation in the UK, providing opportunities for women to learn new skills, participate in social activities, and campaign on issues that are important to them.
This is the first time that the nameless narrator directly addresses the reader, not only acknowledging that this is a text, but also that s/he may be unreliable in his/her storytelling.
The pigeons' names are taken from an alternative version of a children's rhyme:
Adam and Eve and Pinchme
Went down to the river to bathe.
Adam and Eve were drowned.
Who do you think was saved?
The rhyme is part of a rather cheeky children's game. One child recites the rhyme, ending with the question 'Who do you think was saved?', in the hope that someone will respond with the answer 'Pinchme'. The unwitting respondent is then set upon by the other children, having inadvertently given them permission to pinch him/her! 'Pinchme' can be replaced by an alternative instruction, with 'Punchme' and 'Kickme' being the more brutal versions, and 'Kissme' being an age-old excuse for little boys to kiss little girls, or vice-versa.
Boudica (previously known as Boadicea) was queen of the Iceni tribe in the area that is now East Anglia, England. Circa AD60, Boudica led a revolt of the tribes against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.
The humour and irony in this passage is that a male failed homing-pigeon that is afraid of heights could be renamed after a mighty warrior queen. It also plays with the idea of gender identity and gently pokes fun at the WI!
'The clap' is a slang term used to describe the sexually transmitted infection Gonorrhea.
London Zoo, opened in 1828, was the world's first scientific zoo. It is situated on the Outer Circle of Regent's Park and is a popular tourist destination. Today the Zoo specialises in research, conservation, and education, as well as being a fun day out!