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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  40,327 Ratings  ·  1,913 Reviews
This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God's elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems 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. Innovative, punchy and tender, Oranges Are Not the Only Fru ...more
Paperback, 178 pages
Published August 4th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1985)
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Pamela I too think around 15. I found this book very eye opening. When i read this book i was just coming out in the 80's. It was the rave around then. It…moreI too think around 15. I found this book very eye opening. When i read this book i was just coming out in the 80's. It was the rave around then. It was good to read then and still.(less)
Helen One of her friends refers to her as Louie when they're on the bus together, that's the only time that I noticed.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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lori mitchell
May 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: myfavorites
favorite excerpts:

"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."

"As it is, I can't settle, 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 sid
Paquita Maria Sanchez
I tried to write this review eight minutes before I was supposed to go to work. I did not meet the deadline. I only mention this so I can make sure you know what quality shit you're getting when you shop here. My reviews occasionally take longer than eight minutes to compose.

Though much, much better than my miserable first experience with Winterson, I am still unsure about her after reading this, still plagued by minor annoyances. As with that other one, this book is riddled with what it seems t
Bookdragon Sean
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is a compelling novel about a young woman dealing with the pressures of conformity in a world that demands she be something she is not.

Jeanette is gay. The world she has known, the world of the church, shuns such behaviour. She was raised to be a missionary by her extremely controlling and zealous mother. Her path was laid out before her. And Jeanette was relatively obedient to begin with. She was ready to accept this life of servitude to God. She didn’t know any
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A delicious fruit bowl....
Funny, clever, poetic, quirky, creative well written bittersweet story.

Jeannette's innocence was so real......her heart pure.

A terrific inspiring small book! Amazing how humor- and 'witty-charm' can transform sensitive situations.

Thanks Cecily!
Dec 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I seriously had no idea that this year I would read 2 lesbian books (& 4 gay ones!: “The Line of Beauty,” “The Mad Man,” On the Road,” & of course “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”). It's an obscure genre, if you ask me. “Tipping the Velvet” was disappointingly bland, although racy in parts and historically accurate, but it still felt a tad conventional. This, Winterson’s first uber-acclaimed novella, is philosophical and entertaining and funny, part autobiography and part soaring fli ...more
A quirky and warm-hearted tale of a girl, Jeanette, growing up in an evangelical household in England with a goal for her to become a missionary. She is well-behaved, a true believer comfortable with this goal. She feels love from her mother, with a lively relationship often lifted with humor and a sense of virtue from righteous community-minded spirit. Anyone who strays from the path of virtue can find forgiveness for succumbing to temptations of the Devil. Her mother works as an administrative ...more
Aug 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was a child, I had found a pair of gloves in the middle of the street in my cul-de-sac. They were black and worn with a little embroidered heart at each wrist. I slipped them on and flexed my fingers, amazed at how nicely they fit. I took them home and put them in my sock drawer, only taking them out on Thursdays for my bike ride down the street to piano lessons.

This book is exactly like those gloves. I found this book while on a field trip for pre-college English class, crammed in backwa
Petra Eggs
Thinly-veiled memoir of the author's youth growing up with a religous nutter of a mother and a father whose character was subsumed entirely by his monster of a wife's.

I don't know why some girls become lesbians, presumably most are just made that way, but I do think some become that way through choice. In the book its almost as if there was one thing calculated to offend the mother and the entire community of zealots as a mortal sin, but not offend anyone else in the world, the only possible reb
Richard Derus
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 5* of five

The Book Description: Jeanette, the protagonist of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and the author's namesake, has issues--"unnatural" ones: her adopted mam thinks she's the Chosen one from God; she's beginning to fancy girls; and an orange demon keeps popping into her psyche. Already Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical first novel is not your typical coming-of-age tale.

Brought up in a working-class Pentecostal family, up North, Jeanette follows the path her Mam has set f
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in religious nuts
(Read and reviewed February 9, 2017)

I listened to an absolutely delightful 2016 podcast of Richard Fidler's conversation with Winterson where she openly discusses her childhood, family, and upbringing.

There seems to be no bitterness, rather a lot of humour and understanding. Have a listen. I love hearing her talk anyway. :) It's here:

This book of fiction won the Whitbread Award (now the Costa) for first novel, but it appears to be an autob
I've heard that her more recent take on the same material Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is even better. If that's true, I'm in for a truly superlative treat, because I loved this book to the bones. I want to read it again and again to savour its sweet delights.

Maybe Laura Doan's essay 'Sexing the Postmodern', about Winterson's work and theme development over this and two subsequent novels The Passion and Sexing the Cherry gave me a hunger to read this that made it taste so good ('hunger
Paul Bryant
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels

According to my Goodreads shelf, I have read 490 novels. If Joyce Carol Oates, Marcel Proust and William Gass have anything to do with it, I’ll never make 500. But I want to see that magic number 500 there! I want to be able to say “I have read 500 novels, hear me roar!” So, I’m eating up SHORT novels like a madman right now, never mind the quality, feel the pages! 300? Too long! 250? Still too long!

Oranges is short and sweet; really, short and bittersweet. It was drop dead
This story is about a young lesbian girl, trying to navigate her way through a family, a background, and an era that refuses to recognize her, refuses to recognize her sexual identity and accept her as she is. Adopted, raised in a strict, religious household by a mother who was severe and domineering, this novel is partly autobiographical. This is a damn good book, first class story telling that you wouldn't expect to find in a first novel. Four solid stars.
Oct 25, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lishesque by: Carnunee
You need a lot of patience for Jeanette Winterson's weird little Beowulfesque tangents, but if you can get past that, there are little gems of brilliant clarity scattered throughout.

For me, this bit redeems all the boring parts:

"But where was God now, with heaven full of astronauts, and the Lord overthrown? 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 f
May 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: I have only myself to blame
Shelves: read-in-2012, own, brits, xx

I’ll give this book a 3 orange rating (the little mandarin ones though, not the big California navels).

mmmmm... oranges:


Oranges is a coming of age tale of a young woman in Britain raised by a Very Religious adopted mother. The chapters are aptly titled after books of the Old Testament (Genesis through Ruth). Winterson tells the story of Jeanette by juxtaposing myths and fairy tales with the life events of the protagonist. No, I’m not talking abou
Dec 07, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book completely baffling from beginning to end. I couldn't tell if it was because I wasn't raised religious, I wasn't raised in England, or because I wasn't raised by lunatics. I felt that something had been utterly lost in translation.

Sometimes I got the impression that the author had been issued a challenge to write sentences that no one in human history had ever written before. I started keeping a notebook of the strangest sentences. A few gems: "Our crocodile weaved in and out,
Joe Strong
Oranges are not the only fruit, a book ruined by its author. And well, itself. When I began reading it for the first time, I enjoyed it; Jeanette was a witty character, though a tad hard to relate to, and her life as a girl trying to break free of a small town is a story many of us can understand.
What hurt the book for me was its pretence, emphasised in Winterson’s ludicrously self gratifying introduction. It is difficult, for someone used to the more modest comments of authors such as Woolf (“I
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Oranges is an experimental novel," says Jeanette Winterson in her thoroughly obnoxious introduction: "its interests are anti-linear...You can read in spirals." It's nothing of the sort. It's a standard semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story, interspersed with some sort of Arthurian malarkey.

Coming out stories from the 80s and 90s aren't aging terribly well; they're too specifically grounded in that period. David Sedaris is a little wincey in hindsight, too. But this one from 1985 is fine as
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to El by: The F-Word
This was an interesting book to read immediately upon finishing Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape - here is another book about a different (but socially accepted) religion and the difficulties the narrator had within the confines of such.

I have not read Winterson before. I know, I know, that's crazy-talk, I call myself a feminist and I read women authors and I've never read Jeanette Winterson. Why did I think this book was about incest? This book is not abo
Mohit Parikh
Prose style: 3
Plot: 3
Depth of characters: 3
Overall sense of aesthetic: 3
Originality: 3
Entertaining: 3
Emotional Reaction: 2
Intellectual Stimulation: 1
Social Relevance: 5
Writerly Inspiration: 2
Memorable: 1

Average = 2.6/5
(the rating system is borrowed from Stephen M )

Ratings are a bit harsh, given that I read it on and off and always found difficult to connect instantly. The plethora of Bible allusions, for which the novel won many accolades, obviously weren't obvious to me, and so I think I miss
Semi-autobiographical tale of adopted Jess growing up in an austere evangelical family, rebelling religiously, socially and sexually as she tries to find her way in life. Seemed quite scandalous when I first read it, but much sadder and more touching now.

For the truer, grittier, more analytical version, see "Why be happy when you can be normal?":

There also seem to be significant autobiographical aspects to "Lighthousekeeping", as explained in my review:
Aug 04, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-2012
Parliamoci chiaro, l'edizione è veramente bella: copertina meravigliosa, come ogni Mondadori è curata, ma da un'idea completamente sbagliata al lettore di turno. Pone il focus, come si vede dalla citazione dietro la copertina, sulle relazioni omosessuali di Jeanette, quando non è affatto il punto della faccenda. Mi chiedo perché gli italiani hanno sempre problemi su questo fronte, faranno i finti tonti apposta?

La Winterson vuole focalizzarsi sul rapporto con sua madre, su una fanatica religiosa
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've been meaning to read this book for years. The wonderful first third of the book had me completely hooked! I loved her writing style, and I found her narrator very engaging.

But, somewhere in the second third of the book, the story dropped off for me. The relationships that were supposed to be profound were lost in a writing style that felt less like quirky prose and more like the ramblings of a crazy person. New characters were introduced and never fleshed out, and old characters were so si
For a book that is essentially autobiographical fiction, this was a truly depressing tale. Winterson's retelling of her childhood and her discovery of her own sexuality was at times frustrating, upsetting, and laughable.

I generally found the sections on Jeanette's character interesting, but what irritated me about this book were the little stories that broke up some of the chapters. At times I didn't really understand the purpose of including them, and I felt it took me away from the central pl
Debbie "DJ"
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, needs-review
Review to follow.
K.D. Absolutely
Jul 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Parents with children having homosexual tendencies
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books and 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
This coming-of-age story about a teenage girl discovering that she is a lesbian is a literary gem worth reading. This will make the readers understand what's going on inside the mind of a teenager confused about his or her sexuality.

Just like Francoise Sagan, French, who was 17 when she wrote her first hit novel, Bonjour Tristesse, Jeanette Winterson, British, wrote this phenomenal book Oranges Are Not The Only Fruitsat a tender age of 24. The only difference is that Sagan was not able to duplic
Leanne (Booksandbabble)
Oranges are not the only fruit is a beautifully told story about a young girl, Jeanette, coming to terms with her sexuality in a Pentecostal community. Each chapter title is taken from the old testament, and so the story begins with Genesis. Jeanette ‘s adoption is depicted like a scene from the nativity, as her mother

'followed a star until it came to settle above an orphanage, and in that place was a crib, and in that crib was a child.'

The young Jeanette is not allowed to attend school as it i
I heard Janette Winterson interviewed on CBC radio last month and knew immediately that I would track down this fictionalized memoir and also her account of growing up with her ultra-religious mother, Mrs. Winterson, in her book Why be Happy When you Could be Normal?

Adopted into a nuttily religious household and finding in adolescence that she is lesbian, I had to know how she coped and how she came to a place where she could tell the interviewer that Mrs. Winterson was probably the perfect moth
Mar 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
This should be bundled as a companion with Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal . In the intro to Oranges, Winterson writes, "Is this book autobiographical? No not at all and yes of course." It was really fascinating to read it right after finishing Why Be Happy and see all the autobio peeping out. The same anecdotes gussied up and polished, the same hopes carved into a different shape, the same pain painted over but still recognizable. It gives such a fuller understanding of Winterson, and of ...more
Claudia f. Savage
Gawd-alive, I love this woman's work. I've now read her books totally out of order, but who cares? I'm on a memoir kick at the moment. This is one of the best memoirs I've ever read, and, honey, I've read a few! So funny, it will make oatmeal shoot out of your nose. But, also, so beautiful and tender. It discusses the pain and desire of trying to belong in a completely unique way. This woman is a master!
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Novelist Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester, England in 1959. She was adopted and brought up in Accrington, Lancashire, in the north of England. Her strict Pentecostal Evangelist upbringing provides the background to her acclaimed first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, published in 1985. She graduated from St Catherine's College, Oxford, and moved to London where she worked as an assi ...more
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“I seem to have run in a great circle, and met myself again on the starting line.” 625 likes
“I have a theory that every time you make an important choice, the part of you left behind continues the other life you could have had.” 536 likes
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