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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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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 (81)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (83)
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
"Then one week she wasn't there any more.
There was nothing I could do but stare and stare at the whelks.
Whelks are strange and comforting."

The perfect mix of confusion and love. A narrative always just shy of disjointed, trailing thoughts that stumble along in all the right ways. ( )
1 vote ternary | Feb 14, 2015 |
This was a fairly short, enjoyable read, giving a partially autobiographical account of the author's experiences of growing up and coming out in a world dominated by a strict Evangelist mother and the church they belonged to.

Essentially I found this to be a sad read of immense loneliness; the narrator gave her early life to the church and to God and spent much of her spare time evangelising and preaching, yet when her sexuality was outed within the church and she refused to repent or to be considered demonised, she lost both her home and the family of the church.

A slight frustration for me with this type of book is not knowing where the autobiographical moves into fiction, but as a reader have we any right to know this distinction? I guess that's just plain old human nosiness.

26 years later, Winterson wrote a 'twin' to the book Why be happy when you when you could be normal? which is supposed to separate some of the original fact from fiction, and if the reviews are to be believed the real fact is supposed to be even bleaker than the fiction. But there again, I believe this book is only semi-autobiographical so who knows where the real truth lies.

I'm interested if anyone's read both, and if so how much duplication there is of the tale from Oranges are not the only fruit?

Anyway, I digress. Oranges are not the only fruit was well written, with good pace and well crafted characters (however real or otherwise). This book leaves you with so many questions about the author - how did she mentally deal with having a mother who so readily turned her back on her own child, and where did her relationship with God ultimately end up? It leaves you with that sense of wonder about how, behind closed doors, our friends and neighbours are leading a multitude of different kinds of lives, hidden away from view.

That Winterson went from fairly poor, sporadic education, with no family support, to a degree from Oxford and award-winning books and television spin-offs is the stuff of novels in itself, and to me therein lies the great success of this book. Despite everything, she's swum to the surface, and I am glad. ( )
2 vote AlisonY | Feb 6, 2015 |
I assume this "novel" is thinly disguised memoir: the narrator is named Jeanette, so that tells you something. Jeanette is the daughter of a very religious (evangelical) mother, who reacts to Jeanette's lesbianism with one, exorcism and two, banishment. That's the plot in a nutshell, rendered with considerable acerbic wit and interlaced with fairy tale intervals that probably illuminate Jeanette's feelings and experiences (I skimmed them, so I don't know for sure).

As with The Daylight Gate, this book had all the right elements in theory, but just didn't engage me. Well, I more or less hate fable, so there's that. I did appreciate how funny the narrator was, but the humor was not enough to sustain my interest in the book. ( )
  CasualFriday | Dec 15, 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. ( )
1 vote elizabeth.b.bevins | Nov 4, 2014 |
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. ( )
1 vote imaginarian | Jun 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (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.
Last words
(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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