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.
Jeanette Winterson has a truly delightful, very British writing style, if I can say that, and I flew through this book even though it dealt with some rather serious issues – namely an extremely religious and devout household; the MC’s growing realisation that she likes girls, not boys; and the inevitable collision between the two.
The author perfectly captures the confusion that religious extremism can have on children, particularly since kids tend to believe things so literally – and the Bible is full of rather horrible and graphic imagery if you interpret it that way. Winterson also perfectly depicts the struggle that a young person has when they find themselves against the grain of what their religion preaches – probably from personal experience in this particular example, as our character struggles with what the preacher terms ‘unnatural passions’. The family pressure and subsequent disappointment from her mother is also palpably felt. (The father really doesn’t feature much in this book.)
I’m counting this as my classic for April – it was a fairly short read, but the prose was enjoyable. Winterson has a unique style, and notes that she enjoys circular rather than linear narratives, which is evident in the novel.
I want someone who is fierce and will love me until death and knows that love is as strong as death, and be on my side forever and ever. I want someone who will destroy and be destroyed by me.