Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985)

by Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson is known as an experimental writer, and while this novel is not as unconventional as her later ones, the reflections and metaphorical fables interspersed into the first-person narration may put off those who prefer straightforward storytelling.

Semi-autobiographical (the protagonist is even called Jeanette), Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a coming-of-age story about an girl who was adopted in infancy by a radically evangelical woman in an isolated rural area in the North of England. Jeanette is raised according to the fanatical religious beliefs of her mother, a woman so rigid that oranges are the only fruit she will eat. Jeanette eagerly participates in church and likes being among the saved until she realizes as a teenager that she loves members of her own sex, and her mother and congregation try to exorcise her "demons." Able by then to think for herself and brave enough to follow her heart, Jeanette steps out of her restricted confines.

Quirky, often funny, and sometimes sad, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit won England's Whitbread Prize for Best First Fiction.

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