Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Jeanette Winterson)

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is the first novel by Jeanette Winterson.
Finished on: 3.7.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, conversion therapy

Jeanette was adopted by an evangelical family, and grows up as a loyal member of the church. Her mother thinks that she was sent by god, and since Jeanette has a talent for preaching, they both plan on her becoming a missionary. But then Jeanette meets another girl at the market and falls for her. Suddenly, everything is different.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is an incredible novel. Powerful and beautifully written, it grabbed me from the first sentence and will stay with me for a long time yet.

The book cover showing the drawing of a woman holding an orange slice, with an orange and an apple seemingly growing in her hair. Behind her we can see a huge cross.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is prefaced with a short introduction where Winterson states that this both is and isn’t an autobiographical novel. I actually don’t think it matters much, because it is a book that feels very true and wise about life, family and religious fundamentalism. And that is more important than what things may have happened to Winterson and what she may have made up, embellished or otherwise changed.

It is obvious that Winterson is very familiar with the bible, and I’m sure that many of the references in Oranges went over my head because I’m not. But even with only a rather rudimentary understanding of the bible and no idea what is covered in which book, it didn’t feel like I missed anything central to the story – which is a difficult balance to strike.

Her writing is often almost lyrical, and always beautiful, filled with a force that puts you right into the protagonist’s shoes. Her longing, her sense of community, the slowly starting to question things, her strength – it’s all conjured up in only a few words. It’s magical, particularly since it’s Winterson’s first novel.

I’ve had her on my to read-list for a while, but I really can’t wait now to get my hands on pretty much everything else she’s written. If it’s only half as good as this book, it will be absolutely worth reading.

Summarizing: makes me want to preach about it.

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