A magical, wonderful modern classic about the destinies of Napoleon’s faithful cook and the daughter of a Venetian boatman.
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 meets their singular destiny.
In her unique and mesmerizing voice, Jeanette Winterson’s “concentrated, beautifully detailed prose” (The New York Times) unfurls a “historical novel quite different from any other” (Vanity Fair).
“Recalls García Márquez . . . Magical touches dance like highlights over the brilliance of this fairy tale about passion, gambling, madness, and androgynous ecstasy.” —Edmund White
This arresting, elegant novel by the author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit uses Napoleon's Europe as the setting for a tantalizing surrealistic romance between an observer of history and a creature of fantasy. Henri is a naive French soldier who works in Bonaparte's kitchen and worships the conqueror until his starving and diseased army begins to crumble. Disillusioned and longing to escape a desolate posting in the Russian winter, the young man meets and falls in love with Villanelle, a mysterious Venetian hoping to retrieve her own heart, which has literally been stolen and imprisoned by a noblewoman she once loved. Passiondescribed by the manipulative Villanelle as "somewhere between fear and sex''leads Henri on a desperate quest away from his beliefs and into an emotional labyrinth from which he may be unable to return. The slender story is sometimes lost in the strange brew of myth, fact and modernism, but British author Winterson's assured proseparticularly her stunning evocations of a glacial Russia and a decadent nighttime Venicedoes much to unify her unsettling tale.