Page 79. " King Kong "

 King Kong is a 1933 movie about a giant gorilla-like animal that becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman (Fay Wray) and dies in an attempt to possess her.

Page 81. " Mercutio's swagger "

Mercutio is a joking, free-spirited character from William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

Page 84. " the British Library "


The Reading Room, British Museum
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Reading Room, British Museum - Credit: Diliff, Wikimedia


The British Library is the UK's national library. Holding in excess of 150 million items (including 14 million books) it is one of the largest research libraries in the world.

The new British Library building
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe new British Library building - Credit: Mike Peel

The Library is spread across several locations, but the main site is now at St Pancras in London.  However, when Winterson was writing, most of the British Library was located in Bloomsbury, and here Louise is talking about the Reading Room in the British Museum.

Page 85. " like Puck sprung from the mist "

Puck and a Fairy
Public DomainPuck and a Fairy - Credit: Arthur Rackham
 Puck is a mythological nature sprite, or fairy. The character can also be found in William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Page 85. " Emma, Lady Hamilton "


Lady Hamilton as Circe
Public DomainLady Hamilton as Circe - Credit: George Romney

 Emma, Lady Hamilton, was the mistress of Lord Nelson and the muse of artist George Romney, who painted her in many guises.


Page 87. " the trefoil "
Trefoil Knot
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeTrefoil Knot - Credit: Baserinia
The trefoil is named after the three-leaf clover.
Page 87. " King Solomon's knot "


Solomon's Knot
Public DomainSolomon's Knot - Credit: Araldiz_Manno_259.png

 Solomon's Knot is not actually a true knot, but is classified as a link.


Page 89. " Casanova ate his mussels raw "

The Venetian Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt, most famous for his numerous seductions, was also an author and adventurer.

Page 92. " caught in a Piranesi nightmare "

Plate from 'Imaginary Prisons'
Public DomainPlate from 'Imaginary Prisons' - Credit: Giovanni Battista Piranesi
 Giovanni Battista Piranesi was an 18th century Italian artist, best known for his confusing and atmospheric Imaginary Prisons prints.

Page 93. " a Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition "

Au Moulin Rouge
Public DomainAu Moulin Rouge - Credit: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a 19th century French painter, known for his short stature as well as for his art.

Page 95. " 'Men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love.' "

This is a line spoken by the character Rosalind in William Shakespeare's romantic comedy As You Like It.

Page 98. " You said, 'I'm going to leave.' "

The narrator first quotes this on page 18, and then the next 80 pages are spent telling the back-story of Louise, and other lovers. This time the quoted conversation differs slightly, it isn't repeated word for word.

Page 98. " Mozart on a tinkly piano "

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an influential eighteenth century composer. Amongst his many works were 27 piano concertos.

Page 99. " looking like a Pre-Raphaelite heroine "
Public DomainWindswept - Credit: John William Waterhouse

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848 by the painters John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and William Holman Hunt. This reformist movement believed in a return to painting in intense colour and detail, and complex composition. Pre-Raphaelite paintings often feature beautiful flame-haired women posed against a backdrop of nature.


Page 100. " 'Then you won't be surprised to hear she's got cancer?' "

At this point in the book, this is a revelation for the reader but not for the narrator. On a second reading, there are clues about Louise's illness before this point: symbols and images of death and decay throughout the text.