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

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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

by Jeanette Winterson

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2013, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
What a Way To Go

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.

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