The Passion (1997)
By Jeanette Winterson
"A friend passed along this book to me the summer after I graduated from college. "You will love it," he said. And I did—and still do, every time I reread it. A magical fairy tale of love and war set during the Napoleonic Wars, the story is told in the alternating voices of Napoleon's cook Henri, who eventually makes his escape from military life, and Villanelle, the gender-bending, gambling daughter of a Venetian gondolier who falls in love with a married woman and loses her heart to her—literally. For a fairly slim book, Winterson delves deep into issues of sex, violence, identity, and of course, passion. Gorgeously written, evocative and provocative, this book always tops my list of must-read recommendations."