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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Paperback – August 20, 1997

124 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Raised by an oppressively evangelical mother, Jeanette grows up a good little Christian soldier, even going so far as to stitch samplers whose apocalyptic themes terrify her classmates. As she dryly notes, without self-pity or smugness, "This tendency towards the exotic has brought me many problems, just as it did for William Blake." Jeanette would have remained in the fold but for her unconventional desires; though she can reconcile her love of women with her love of God, the church cannot. It could have been a grim tale, but this first novelwinner of England's Whitbread Prizeis in fact a wry and tender telling of a young girl's triumphantly coming into her own. Highly recommended. Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"A striking, quirky, delicate, and intricate work . . . Winterson has mastered both comedy and tragedy in this rich little novel. . . . Winterson's great gift is evident." —The Washington Post Book World

"A daring, unconventional comic novel . . . by employing quirky anecdotes, which are told with romping humor, and by splicing various parables into the narrative, Winterson allows herself the dangerous luxury of writing a novel that refuses to rely on rousing plot devices. . . . A fascinating debut . . . A penetrating novel." —Chicago Tribune

"If Flannery O'Connor and Rita Mae Brown had collaborated on the coming-out story of a young British girl in the 1960s, maybe they would have approached the quirky and subtle hilarity of Jeanette Winterson's autobiographical first novel. . . . Winterson's voice, with its idiosyncratic wit and sensitivity, is one you've never heard before." —Ms.

"The overwhelming impression of her work is one of remarkable self-confidence, and she evidently thrives on risk…. As good as Poe: it dares you to laugh and stares you down." —The New York Review of Books

"An explosively imaginative writer." —The London Free Press

"She is a master of her material, a writer [of] great talent." —Muriel Spark

"Many consider her to be the best living writer in this language." —Evening Standard

"The most interesting writer I have read in twenty years." —Gore Vidal

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (August 20, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780802135162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802135162
  • ASIN: 0802135161
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

205 of 223 people found the following review helpful By Edmund Lau Kok Ming on December 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical novel is one of the most beautifully written story of a middle-class girl struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, creativity, passion vs. her family/society's inflexible "formed opinions". The story of the persecution of a girl because of her sexual preference (in this case, lesbianism) is not new. It's how Ms. Winterson presents her story. Fresh. Alive. Witty. Funny. Heartbreaking at times. Imaginative. Almost like you were holding a piece of someone's soul in your hands rather than merely a book. I noticed that one reviewer mentioned that the book's sexual nature is vulgar. I do not find this so. Even if it is, so what? Life is vulgar. Only those fond of sweeping the dirt under the carpet so that it stays out of sight (or those who drive lesbian girls from their house/church and pretend they don't exist) will disagree with the innate vulgarity of all life. This book is the antidote for that kind of sanitized thinking. This book exposes that sanitized Christian middle-class thinking is weird, almost alien when observed sanely by a third party standing on the outside. This book celebrates life. Read it.
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66 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Eileen G. on February 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
Published in England in 1985, this first novel (autobiography?) is a story of a girl adopted as a baby into an evangelical Christian family in the Midlands, and raised with good humor and matter-of-fact, everyday, unquestioned love ("I cannot recall a time when I did not know that I was special"), strict religious teachings, a lot of structure, strong opinions coming from all corners. As a child, she's proud of her eccentric, high-achieving mom; she's her best student, too. The household and small community is a bubbling stew of English coziness, friends and neighbors, superstition, religious fervor and misinformation, vulgarity, harsh pronouncements and oddly good-natured fanatical beliefs.
The girl soaks it up -- to a point. Things begin to come apart, inevitably, and later still, as a teen, there's the narrator's growing knowledge that she is passionately, yearningly, and quite happily in love with a girl her age named Katy -- and no amount of exorcism will change that. The affair proceeds. Winterson is smart enough to put it all together with grace and humor. Her bright and resourceful protagonist travels a great and difficult path, avoiding all the predictable plot formulas. No whining or self-pity, either.
There is incisive wit, a smart and brave presentation of the (sometimes appalling) facts; very good use of myth, history and politics, fairy tales, Bible and church miscellany; amazing observation. This is a detailed and often funny picture of a truly strange household, a great girl, and there's a lot of love -- in this wonderful novel.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on February 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
This novel has often been criticised as Winterson's best now that she has gone on to write several powerfully experimental novels. This is implying that she should have remained in these more familiar regions of experience or stuck to a slightly more conventional mode of narrative. What's tremendous about this novel is the way it works as a perfect springboard for the kind of fiction that is being so negatively criticised for its inventiveness. This is a story about a girl who is struggling with the conventions of a restrictive Pentecostal community in a small spot of England, but it is also about the interplay between reality and fiction in people's lives. Jeanette's fables are established to be as valid as the complex religious practices of her family. The characters of the novel constantly differ to a fictional artifice to hold together the reality they cannot understand. Tension builds when the fictional worlds that people struggle to hold into place contradicts other people's realities. This novel is a tribute to the fight for independence and survival. She powerfully asserts that there is a necessary space for these fictional parts of people's realities despite the conflict it will inevitably create. She suggests that the reality built in fiction is also the truth of our own fictions accepted as reality. The interplay of these two creates a living reality.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lesbian Reader on November 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
Winterson's first novel is a compelling story that presages her talent for finding themes that aren't last year's, or even today's, but cut the edge of tomorrow.
No less importantly, it's the first look at a word smith of the finest calibre. Every word has import and can build, nuance by nuance, into breathtaking metaphors that only emerge after you've finished the book and find yourself thinking about it. I like to read Winterson out loud, because hearing words and reading them are two different experiences.
This book is a must read because the true high art of lesbian-themed writing is found here.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Karusichan on April 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
"We stood on the hill and my mother said, `This world is full of sin.' We stood on the hill and my mother said, `You can change the world.'"

Jeanette is an orphan child adopted my a fanatic Evangelical woman who believes that the child is sent to her by God. Jeanette's mother raises her with three strict ideas in mind for her- one, that she will be a missionary child... two, that she will be a servant of God... and three, that she will be a blessing. Her strict moral upbringing causes her severe grief when her mother has to enroll her into school at the age of seven. The children, the teachers, and even the administrators find her preaching attitude a bit unnerving. As a child her only friend is an older woman named Elsie Norris who is a bit of an eccentric, and her life is completely dominated by her mother's quest to convert all of the heathens in the world.

But when she is 14 she meets a young woman from the fish market who will compromise everything that Jeanette knows about herself, but does not bring her to lose her faith in God. Rather the opposite, through a series of events during this friendship she finds herself being drawn closer into the fervor of her faith. It is not until the affair comes to a climax that Jeanette really begins to question the path her mother has set her on.

"He turned to me.

`I love her.'

`Then you do not love God.'

`Yes, I love both of them.'

`You cannot.'"

The book skillfully touches on the controversy of homosexuality in the Christian community, and deals with many of the biased points of views of that religion that still exists to this day. This is a tremendous book.
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