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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Bloomsbury…
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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Bloomsbury Classics) (original 1985; edition 1991)

by Jeanette Winterson

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4,251801,167 (3.75)1 / 342
Member:gcoupe
Title:Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Bloomsbury Classics)
Authors:Jeanette Winterson
Info:Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (1991), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
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Tags:gay fiction

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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (1985)

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English (78)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (80)
Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
This coming of age tale seems to be a trilogy of self, rather than a cohesive progression of maturity.

As the first self, Winterson's inner child writes in crisp, awake language, and her sentiments are alive and charming with premature existential angst. She's funny and insightful, questioning the ways and whys of the world... until suddenly, she's caught up in it.

As the second self, she rails against the religious system in which she was reared that wants to purge from her the most sacred thing she believes she has: a unique way of falling in love... as she discovers that she loves the “wrong” gender (other women).

What's interesting to me about this second self is that it's regarded by most readers as holding the thematic core- “a young girl force-fed strict religious values discovers she's a lesbian and here's how she rebels.” No, rather, I see the accidental theme of the book being one of knowing one's authentic self from the very beginning and yet being systematically dismantled from without by the community and one's perception of god.

Regarding the supposed, intended theme: where is this true rebellion in the book? This rage against the system that wishes to assimilate her at a very high personal cost? In the second two thirds of the book, I saw little rebellion and little rage. Moreover, I saw a more profound constriction of the second self in the way that Winterson's tone changed dramatically at this point to resemble the speedy, monotone speakers who read the fine print at the end of commercial spots. Gone were the delicious, random minutiae of her life, gone were the funny moments, and gone seemed any semblance of the archetypal Magical Child self that she'd embodied so impeccably in the first act. In other words, Winterson tells you she's rebelling, but there's very little feeling of it shown in the writing. Most of the expression of conflict is the external conflict between her sexual identification and how the members of her community respond to it- and not the internal conflict I'd hoped to see between Winterson's newly found romantic and sexual spirit and her force-fed understanding of god. What seems especially “blasphemous” in Winterson's respect is that we learn next to nothing about the women that Winterson professes to love, as said characters remain flat and largely without description during the times that Winterson is supposedly in love with them. As her second self, Winterson almost lost me in the muck and mire she'd once lost herself in. I nearly stopped reading the book, but pressed on so that I could make a fair review.

When we reach Winterson's third self, we see that the old spirit of Winterson reemerges slightly (albeit with a morphed, adult spin). The true kicking and fighting Winterson child never really returns, however, much to my disappointment. The redeeming quality of this part is that I could feel Winterson's soul inhabiting the words again, like it did in the beginning... but in a sober, grown-up kind of way.

The grown-up version of Winterson randomly tosses medieval vignettes into the rest of the narrative. These mini reveries are probably geared to show the splintering dichotomy of Winterson's whole self- meaning that the only way she could continue to function in the real world was that she was left free to roam wherever she liked inside her own heart. However, during my journey through the book, I found the ever-increasing frequency of the shifts of “reality” to be jarring. I think the vignettes showed further disintegration, rather than strength, in the central character and served more to alienate me from her than to bring me to a closer understanding of her. Had Winterson intended the book to be about the disintegration of self, this conclusion would have been more forgivable, but it's quite obvious that she was hoping to capitalize on the duality of religion and sex... and ended up somewhere else. ( )
  imaginarian | Jun 28, 2014 |
This is Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical first novel, about growing up and discovering your sexuality in a fundamental, evangelical family. The protagonist, also named Jeanette, spends her early years at revival meetings and training to be a missionary. Her mother looms large; her father is but a background figure. Jeanette discovers she is attracted to women, finds others like her in the sect, and learns the high price of coming out in that environment.

The story is told with a considerable amount of dry humor, and includes parallel storylines that resemble a fairy tale or mythology. I'm still trying to work out some of the symbolism, but saw the humor as the armor Jeanette wore in order to get through her days. These elements adds layers and depth to the work, and deliver an emotional impact that sneaks up on you. ( )
  lauralkeet | Jun 26, 2014 |
This book did not hit the right note for me. It's an autobiographical novel about a young girl who is adopted by a Pentecostal family. The church is their life and she's raised with the thought that she'll be a missionary - until her teenage years where she discovers she's a lesbian and her mother and the church find out.

The book is humorous in a mocking sort of way, but instead of finding it funny I really just thought it was sad. I think that's why it really didn't work for me. It made me really mad that the super-religious mother had obviously converted later in life and had a wide variety of life experience before confining her adopted daughter to her narrow beliefs.

I just didn't like it, though I suppose I did appreciate the writing. ( )
  japaul22 | Jun 7, 2014 |
This was the first Winterson book I read. It has been many years since then. It is one that, I think, will be around for a long time. If you have read her later work I highly recommend you read this one. If you haven't read Winterson yet then skip this one for now. It will be there waiting for you after you get to know her other work. ( )
  ElizabethBevins | May 6, 2014 |
Jeannette Winterson's first novel is lushly literary but also full of sharp wit and wicked humor. This is a great coming of age novel as well as a hallmark of queer literature. While lesbian fiction in recent decades has seemingly been reduced to badly written young adult fiction or insubstantial romantic pulp, this book remains as a carefully crafted and poetic novel about family, identity, and self discovery. ( )
  poetontheone | Mar 2, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
Narratively, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is built on a particular irony - a contradiction in which it takes some sly delight....The novel may be a story of self-liberation for a secular age, but it recalls a traditional sense that a person's story is made significant by reference to the Bible. Why should any individual's story matter, after all? Because it follows the pattern of God-given precept and God-directed narrative. All the early heroes and heroines of the English novel - Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Richardson's Pamela and Clarissa - make sense of their peculiar lives by reference to the Bible
 

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jeanette Wintersonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lammers, GeertjeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mattila, RaijaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'When thick rinds are used the top must be thoroughly skimmed, or a scum will form marring the final appearance.'
From
The Making of Marmalade by Mrs Beeton.
'Oranges are not the only fruit.'
-- Nell Gwynn
Dedication
For Gill Saunders and Fang the cat
TO PHILLIPPA BREWSTER WHO WAS THE BEGINNING
First words
Like most people I lived for a long time with my mother and father. My father liked to watch the wrestling, my mother liked to wrestle; it didn't matter what. She was in the white corner and that was that.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit was written during the winter of 1983 and the spring of 1984. (Introduction)
Quotations
Everyone thinks their own situation most tragic. I am no exception.
Going back after a long time will make you mad, because the people you left behind do not like to think of you changed, will treat you as they always did, accuse you of being indifferent, when you are only different.
Of course that is not the whole story, but that is the way with stories; we make them what we will. It's a way of explaining the universe while leaving the universe unexplained, it's a way of keeping it all alive, not boxing it into time. Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently.
She was Old Testament through and through. Not for her the meek and paschal Lamb, she was out there, up front with the prophets, and much given to sulking under trees when the appropriate destruction didn't materialise. Quite often it did, her will or the Lord's I can't say.
I didn't know quite what fornicating was, but I had read about it in Deuteronomy, and I knew it was a sin. But why was it so noisy? Most sins you did quietly so as not to get caught.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802135161, Paperback)

Winner of the Whitbread Prize for best first fiction, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a coming-out novel from Winterson, the acclaimed author of The Passion and Sexing the Cherry. The narrator, Jeanette, cuts her teeth on the knowledge that she is one of God’s elect, but as this budding evangelical comes of age, and comes to terms with her preference for her own sex, the peculiar balance of her God-fearing household crumbles.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:19 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The coming-of-age story of Jess, the adopted daughter of a deeply religious woman, who grows up isolated and insulated in the north of England in the 1960's. Jess meets Melanie, and the two teenagers fall in love, greatly upsetting Jess's mother and her congregation.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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