MLA Platinum Award Press Release

What a Way To Go: Background information when reading Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

by Jeanette Winterson

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson X
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2013, 240 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva
Buy This Book

About this Book

What a Way To Go

This article relates to Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Print Review

In a passage on suicide, Winterson remarks that "when natural gas was introduced in the 1960's, the British suicide rate fell by one-third." I thought that perhaps she was using some creative math for dramatic effect, but a little research revealed that she wasn't exaggerating at all. Here's a summary of the way things were in Great Britain before the introduction of natural gas, from the New York Times:

For generations, the people of Britain heated their homes and fueled their stoves with coal gas. While plentiful and cheap, coal-derived gas could also be deadly; in its unburned form, it released very high levels of carbon monoxide, and an open valve or a leak in a closed space could induce asphyxiation in a matter of minutes. This extreme toxicity also made it a preferred method of suicide. 'Sticking one's head in the oven' became so common in Britain that by the late 1950s it accounted for some 2,500 suicides a year, almost half the nation's total.

Starting in the 1960s, the fuel used to heat homes became cleaner and carbon monoxide was practically eliminated. By the early 1970s, the suicide rate in Britain had fallen by nearly 40 percent. It seems truly remarkable that, of every ten people on the brink of suicide, four would choose to go on living instead, simply because suicide was no longer as easy as sticking one's head in the oven. The lesson that some experts have drawn from this is that suicide is an extremely impulsive act, and that the difference between going through with it or backing out can come down to how "convenient" it is to get the job done. As if to drive the point home, the suicide rate dipped even further in the 1990s, after the introduction of catalytic converters cut the amount of carbon monoxide coming out of car tail pipes.

To other experts though, it seems that people who kill themselves come from two groups. The first are those that have long reported suicidal thoughts and have devised methods that require planning and make it possible that their lives will be saved (pill overdoses, wrist-cutting). In the second group are people that have not reported suicidal thoughts, and are likely to use more "successful" methods, such as gunshots or falls from a precipice. Consider these statistics from the New York Times in an article entitled, "The Urge to End It All": "Even though guns account for less than 1 percent of all American suicide attempts, their extreme fatality rate - anywhere from 85 percent and 92 percent, depending on how the statistics are compiled - means that they account for 54 percent of all completions."

For more information, check out a related article on The Effects of Detoxification of Domestic Gas on Suicide in the United States.

Article by Lucia Silva

This "beyond the book article" relates to Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. It originally ran in March 2012 and has been updated for the March 2013 paperback edition.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: American Dirt
    American Dirt
    by Jeanine Cummins
    Jeanine Cummins' American Dirt hasn't just been positively reviewed by BookBrowse First Impressions ...
  • Book Jacket: In the Dream House
    In the Dream House
    by Carmen Maria Machado
    In the introduction to In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado (a National Book Award finalist for ...
  • Book Jacket: Father of Lions
    Father of Lions
    by Louise Callaghan
    Our readers have given high marks to Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan. Out of 21 reviewers, 18 ...
  • Book Jacket
    Girl, Woman, Other
    by Bernardine Evaristo
    As we meet Amma, a 50-something playwright finally experiencing mainstream success in Bernardine ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Lost Man
by Jane Harper

"Strong characters, riveting plot and an honest look at life in the Australian outback make it easy to give this 5-stars!"
—BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Remembrance
    by Rita Woods

    A breakout debut with modern resonance, perfect for fans of The Underground Railroad and Orphan Train.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Father of Lions
    by Louise Callaghan

    A true-to-life narrative of one man's remarkable quest to save the Mosul Zoo.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Adventurer's Son

Publishing Soon!
The Adventurer's Son

"A brave and marvelous book. A page-turner that will rip your heart out."
--Jon Krakauer

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I I A Broke, D F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.