Author: Jeanette Winterson.
Published: 21st March, 1985.
Usually I don’t enjoy novels that spew religious doctrines, which this one does, because I live in Ireland and that kind of Catholic stuff was bred into us the whole way through school and at mass, and I’ve reached a point where I don’t want to hear about it anymore. It seems so twisted and archaic (that’s just me). A lot of novels of a certain time in Ireland presented these Catholic values as, literally, gospel. They saw them as the law of society and being morally right.
What Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (1985) does, however, is present these ideas and show how influential and damaging they can be on a susceptible young girl. The first half of the novel builds up this extremely religious English household where Jeannette’s mother influences her daughter into a world of religion and penance. It is very tough reading, as I myself disagreed with a lot of what was going on. The child basically had no childhood.
The second half of the novel de-constructs all of the doctrines of the first half by positioning Jeannette in romantic and intimate ties with other girls and women. She soon learns to free herself from her extremely restrictive religious upbringing. This is the first novel I’ve read featuring sexual intimacy between women, and I really enjoyed it. It does a lot for LGBT politics.
A great period piece with themes of religion, sexuality and coming-of-age. Highly recommended.