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1001 Book Review: Oranges are not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson

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Jeanette Winterson just came out with a new book this holiday season. She is one of our favorite authors and it just so happened that Book Worm and I were reading her first novel at the time of her latest release. Here are our thoughts about Oranges are Not the Only Fruit.

Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Published in: 1985
Literary Awards: Whitbread Award for First Novel
Reviewed by: Book Worm  and Jen
Find it here: Oranges are not the Only Fruit

Synopsis (from Goodreads): This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God’s elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts. At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves. “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” is a few days ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: ★★★★★. Jeanette Winterson is one of my favorite writers and this book just made me love her more. The writing is beautiful and the story combines religion, morality, self discovery, and fables into a seamless narrative that works on multiple subtle levels. I am sure a lot of the religious motifs went over my head but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

At its heart this is a book about what it means to be different and how it feels to live in conflict with the beliefs of your community. It is also about growing up and accepting that being different isn’t always a bad thing.

Jen’s Thoughts: ★★★★. I will be forever grateful to the 1001 list for introducing me to the works of Jeanette Winterson. She has become one of my favorite authors and in the near future we’ll be posting our regular featured author post where we discuss our favorite of her books.

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit was Jeanette’s first novel and she wrote it when she was 24 — thus leaving me feeling extremely inadequate. The plot is semi-autobiographical as it is based on the author’s experience growing up as a lesbian woman in a Pentecostal household that saw her sexual identity as a sign of the devil. Like all of her books, it is well-written, whimsical (in it’s weaving in of fairy tale stories to enhance the main themes), and emotionally savvy.

It’s not my favorite of her books but I did enjoy it very much and I highly recommend it to others as a good starting place for her work. This novel gives readers insight and perspective on the struggles that Winterson faced growing up in a household that saw a critical part of her identify as something evil and worthy of exorcism. It was fascinating to me to see how Winterson reconciled her personal beliefs and spirituality with beliefs about her own sexuality. It’s an extreme case but one that offers quite a lot of perspective to its readers.

Our Favorite Quotes:

“I told her it would be too difficult. ‘The Lord walked on water’, was all she said when I tried to explain.”

Now if I was aping men she’d have every reason to be disgusted. As far as I was concerned men were something you had around the place, not particularly interesting, but quite harmless.

If there’s such a thing as spiritual adultery, my mother was a whore.

It is not the one thing nor the other that leads to madness, but the space in between them.

I miss God. I miss the company of someone utterly loyal.  I still don’t think of God as my betrayer. The servants of God, yes, but servants by their very nature betray. I miss God who was my friend. I don’t even know if God exists, but I do know that if God is your emotional role model, very few human relationships will match up to it

I want someone who is fierce and will love me until death and know that love is as strong as death, and be on my side for ever and ever. I want someone who will destroy and be destroyed by me.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

And because I love Winterson so much, I’ve made a soy candle inspired by this book. You can purchase it (and help us raise money for blog prizes) here: Crimson Citrus Soy Candle

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tracy S #

    This was the first book I read by her. I think it’s the best one to start with, too. They’re all good!

    Like

    December 21, 2016
  2. Diane #

    My first book from her also. I loved it and look forward to reading more of her work.

    Like

    December 21, 2016
  3. she has some fantastic quotes, I remember (vaguely) one about a puritan. I kind of think it may have been from Sexing the Cherry. She’s fantastic.

    Like

    December 22, 2016
  4. This takes me back in time to when I too was in my mid twenties and read this – it was like nothing else around at the time

    Like

    December 22, 2016
  5. I watched the TV adaptation of Oranges and found it a bit weird so passed on the book. Recently I watched a documentary where Winterson went back to her childhood and visited her mother’s grave. She came across as a bit weird, but intrigued me, so I read her autobiography and didn’t like her one little bit. I decided she wasn’t for me, but a work colleague persuaded me to try one of her novels, so I read my first Winterson novel this year – Written on the Body – and it blew me away with its beauty and humanity. I might try Oranges. I think my husband might have a copy.

    Like

    January 2, 2017
  6. Winterson has been on my to-read list for so long, but I still haven’t read any of her books! All of them sound good. Do you have a favourite?

    Like

    January 6, 2017

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