Sunday, 7 September 2008

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Title: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

Author: Jeanette Winterson

Number of pages: 171

Started: 5 September 2008

Finished: 7 September 2008

Opening words:

LIKE MOST PEOPLE I lived for a long time with my mother and father. My father liked to watch the wrestling, my mother liked to wrestle; it didn't mater what. She was in the white corner and that was that. She hung out the largest sheets on the windiest days. She wanted the Mormons to knock on the door. At election time in a Labour mill town she put a picture of the Conservative candidate in the window. She had never heard of mixed feelings. There were friends and there were enemies.
Enemies were:

The Devil (in his many forms)
Next Door
Sex (in its many forms)

Friends were:

Our dog
Auntie Madge
The Novels of Charlotte Brontë
Slug pellets

and me, at first, I had been brought in to join her in a tag match against the Rest of the World. She had a mysterious attitude towards the begetting of children; it wasn't that she couldn't do it, more that she didn't want to do it. She was very bitter about the Virgin Mary getting there first. So she did the next best thing and arranged for a foundling. That was me.

Plot summary:
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 for her. This involves Bible quizzes, a stint as a tambourine-playing Sally Army officer and a future as a missionary in Africa, or some other "heathen state". When Jeanette starts going to school ("The Breeding Ground") and confides in her mother about her feelings for another girl ("Unnatural Passions"), she's swept up in a feverish frenzy for her tainted soul. Confused, angry and alone, Jeanette strikes out on her own path, that involves a funeral parlour and an ice-cream van. Mixed in with the so-called reality of Jeanette's existence growing up are unconventional fairy tales that transcend the everyday world, subverting the traditional preconceptions of the damsel in distress.

In Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Winterson knits a complicated picture of teenage angst through a series of layered narratives, incorporating and subverting fairytales and myths, to present a coherent whole, within which her stories can stand independently. Imaginative and mischievous, she is a born storyteller, teasing and taunting the reader to reconsider their worldview.

Summary taken from Amazon

What I thought:

I really enjoyed this book. It was highly readable and I liked the young voice of the narrator and the innocence that brought to the story. It was an interesting take on a difficult issue – a girl exploring her sexuality growing up in a highly religious family. A really charming book that was a really good read.

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