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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  70,232 ratings  ·  4,103 reviews
Alternate cover edition for 9780802135162

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. Innovative, punchy and te
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 20th 1997 by Grove Press (first published March 21st 1985)
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Elaine Sabin-Simpson I don't believe in censoring what kids read- if they're old enough to pick up books without pictures, and can manage the level of the vocabulary, let …moreI don't believe in censoring what kids read- if they're old enough to pick up books without pictures, and can manage the level of the vocabulary, let them get on with it. (less)

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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  70,232 ratings  ·  4,103 reviews

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lori light
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
Apr 22, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, lgbt
To eat of the fruit means to leave the garden because the fruit speaks of other things, other longings.

Jeanette Winterson writes prose that seeps into you the way warm sunshine does at the final edges of winter. She has a distinct voice with a confident cadence that can seamlessly sway between realism and the fantastical or fairy tale elements, harmonizing each aspect of her storytelling into a grand orchestral narrative that in each of her books pushes boundaries and doesn’t shy away from exp
I’m enamored with Jeanette Winterson’s writing and creative mind. I picked her up on a whim a few years ago without knowing much about her. Mainly she just happened to have written a book of Christmas stories and I must have had the Christmas spirit that year. After that I went on to read three of her novels and then began a quest to obtain all of her books – even the lesser known pieces. Fortunately, I’m taking my sweet time so I don’t run out of them too quickly. This, her first book, happened ...more
Dec 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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, let us never forget “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 pa ...more
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, recs
An unassuming coming-of-age tale about love, religion, and repression, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit conducts a moving psychological study of a young British lesbian. Across the novel’s eight chapters, Winterson follows a fictionalized version of herself, Jeanette, as she grows up in a strict, working-class Protestant household; in plain but incisive prose, the author considers the teen girl’s struggle to reconcile her sexuality with her faith, charts the highs and lows of her first romances wi ...more
Sean Barrs
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
Petra is off to Miami - book & art fairs & dates!
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
Dec 07, 2012 rated it did not like it
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,
Paul Bryant

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
Elyse Walters
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
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!
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
(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
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
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
Jo (The Book Geek)
Jeanette Winterson is masterful in the way she captures her readers. She has such talent, and is one of the most unique writers that I have ever had the privilege to read. I would gladly read anything, with Winterson's name attached to it.
As this is Winterson's first acclaimed novel, I was pleasantly surprised to find how beautiful it was. It was written with honesty, innocence and was told in black and white. The story is based on Winterson's time with her Mother, and the goal for Jeanette to e
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
"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
Andy Marr
Aug 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Oct 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was amazed at how much this reminded of Boyhood by J. M. Coetzee, right down to the protagonist's—uhm—complicated relationship with her mother. However, the autobiographical narrator in Oranges outpaces Boyhood's John by being allowed to grow up, and this gives greater scope/depth to the book as a whole. The mother in this one certainly takes the cake, and she probably shares much with the mother in a certain popular horror novel which I have yet to read—okay, maybe not quite. Winterson's work ...more
Susan's Reviews
Apr 23, 2021 rated it did not like it
My overall impression of this author's autobiographies and of this unending whine-fest is that the author felt cheated.
She did not win the adoption lottery pool.
She was, instead, adopted by lower income, fundamentalist older parents and she was ashamed of her home.

When she finally meets her birth mother, she finds fault with her too, and is angry at her for choosing to keep her biological brother over her. Most of her writing is one huge gripe after the other and any feelings of compassion I
Oranges is a comforting novel. Its heroine is someone on the outside of life. She’s poor, she’s working class but she has to deal with the big questions that cut across class, culture and colour. Everyone, at some time in their life, must choose whether to stay with a ready-made world that may be safe but which is also limiting, or to push forward, often past the frontiers of commonsense, into a personal place, unknown and untried. Winterson writes in her introduction to Oranges, and in this ...more
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:
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. ...more
Oct 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Joe Strong
Dec 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
This strange and fascinating work of auto-fiction is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s sharp, funny – in that very dry British way – but also very sad. The cruelty and heartlessness endured by Winterson’s alter ego was crushing to read about; I find stories of bad parenting, especially those involving fanatical religious sentiments, to be especially devastating.

Jeanette is adopted by a fanatically religious mother, and a mostly aloof and absent father. For many years, life amongst her mothe
Aug 24, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
[2.5] This autobiographical novel is the first book by Winterson that I didn't enjoy. There are moments of marvelous writing, but this strung together collection of anecdotes, fairy tales and revelations left me mostly bored. The parts that I liked seemed to be a repetition of her memoir “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?".
on three levels—religious (evangelism), cultural (british ppl...), and historical (the eighties, probably)—the writing in this book eluded me. i had to take a break after the first 50 pages because my brain felt like it was doing complex math. i do enjoy a little googling in service of better understanding a text, but with oranges are not the only fruit the stopping and starting got excessive. which is less the fault of jeanette winterson and more a difference in tastes/experiences.

more than tha
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sad but also surprisingly comical exploration of a girl discovering her sexuality, throw in a very pious devout mother and a host of neighbourly church goers condemning homosexuality as a “sin” and you get a damn good book, the internal battle Jeanette has with her sexuality and her religious beliefs makes an interesting combination, with plenty of funny moments to lighten the mood. Her ability to stay true to herself and her god without any sourness in her heart even when rejected so harshly ...more
May 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012, xx, own, brits

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
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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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