31. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit: Jeanette Winterson

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After having this recommended to me by my mother-in-law, for whom it is one of her favourite books, some time ago I was prompted to read it now as it was suggested (although not picked) for one of my book clubs. I came to it knowing quite a lot about it, that it was semi-autobiographical, about growing up in a strict religious household and coming to terms with their homosexuality, so I was interested to see how it panned out.

The plot is much as I described above. Jeanette grows up under the pervasive influence of her fundamentalist religious mother. For most of her childhood she is mostly content with her upbringing and believes she is destined for life as a missionary. However as she becomes aware of her lesbianism and starts to have relationships with other girls she finds herself rejected by the Church community and questioning the nature of her faith.

The story is interspersed with myths and fairy tales which mirror aspects of Jeanette’s life and further develop some of the themes of the book such as the reconstruction of history and what is truth. Other ideas are more obvious and common, like the hypocrisy of religion, self-discovery and developing an individual identity, then reconciling this present or future self with your past. I was also interested by what it has to say about women and different sorts of female relationships. In fact, apart from the Pastor men in the novel are largely mute and have a very peripheral role.

Whilst they were intriguing, I found the “stories” a little distracting but only because I was so engrossed in Jeanette’s own story. There are funny moments, but on the whole I found it rather tragic. It’s beautifully written, clear yet still poetic, I finished it in just a couple if sittings.

4.5 stars

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4 thoughts on “31. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit: Jeanette Winterson

  1. I read this years ago and admit it hasn’t really stayed with me, but I am really interested to read her latest book Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal, written with hindsight and a few more years that have developed a kind of compassion or detachment towards her mother. In the same way that Maya Angelou in her 80’s was able to do something similar and write a more compassionate account of her mother in Mom & Me & Mom, something which some find hard to understand given the history, but this ability to forgive and see things through an older, wiser more compassionate mind is intriguing, hopeful and has significance for us all. Do you think you will read her recent work?

    • Yes, I have heard Why Be Happy is very good, but I was told to read Oranges first. Interesting what you say about Maya Angelou- I loved her memoirs when I read them all as a teenager (we had to read Caged Bird for school and I loved it) so will definitely have a look at Mom & Me & Mom. Thanks for mentioning it. And thanks for reading/ commenting on my blog. I love discussing books with people, one of the main reasons I started this!

  2. Pingback: 46. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?: Jeanette Winterson | BookAWeek: A Challenge to Read 52 Books in a Year

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