“June. The wettest June on record. We made love every day. We were happy like colts, flagrant like rabbits, dove-innocent in our pursuit of pleasure. Neither of us thought about it and we had no time to discuss it. The time we had used. Those brief days and briefer hours were small offerings to a god who would not be appeased by burning flesh. We consumed each other and went hungry again. There were patches of relief, moments of tranquility as still as an artificial lake, but always behind us the roaring tide.” (pg. 20)
“June. The driest June on record. The earth that should have been in summer glory was thin for lack of water. The buds held promise but they didn’t swell. The beating sun was a fake. The sun that should have brought life was carrying death in every relentless morning.” (pg. 150)
The first passage above appears early in the text, after the first mention of Louise by name. The second passage appears near the end of the novel, shortly after Louise’s cancer diagnosis, and directly after a few chapters about anatomy. The focus of the story shifts from exploring the body as an object of love and sex, to exploring the body as it functions and as it fails to function over time. This is also evident in the use of repetition/double meanings above; the phrases “the wettest June on record” (20), and “the driest June on record” (150), besides being obvious sexual innuendos, hint at a sort of cyclical experience. This could refer to the repetitive cycles in relationships that we’ve seen the narrator experience, or it could reference more simply the cycle of life and coming to terms with natural endings.
The passage of time, measured in different ways throughout the book, and not always linear, is a major focus of Winterson’s writing. Along the changing timeline, the narrator’s relationship with Louise undergoes physical and emotional changes. The two passages I’ve highlighted above directly contrast the narrator’s feelings of falling in love versus dealing with inevitable loss as it progresses over the course of the novel. More explicitly we can see that the language in each passage remains rooted in nature imagery, but shifts from descriptions of life, love, happiness, and growth, to descriptions of darkness, death, and loss. This is parallel to the changes in both Louise’s body (from more energetic/sexually-charged to tired and cancer-ridden) and in her relationship with the narrator (from exciting, new, and passionate, to dying and distant).
I think these ideas are also representative of the idea of the “palimpsest,” which we discussed briefly in class: the concept of rewriting stories, memories, or a body of work on top of past versions in order to reflect the always-changing nature of life, the self, and relationships.