Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

A quick rundown… A semi-autobiographical novel about an adopted girl growing up in a religious family with a few issues – including a demon in an orange.

Strengths: Easy read, interesting and witty in parts.

Weaknesses: A lot of religion; the tangents into fairy tales some may find odd.

Why I read it: Vintage 21 edition – it was bright orange (including the page edges) and a nice price.

Pages: 178

Published: 2011 (originally 1985)

Publisher: Vintage

Setting: England

Rating: 8 out of 10

If you liked this, try: Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters


I originally added this book to my to-read list after reading Novel Insights‘ review. It sounded like a strong book, covering interesting themes and having a strong writing style. Imagine my delight when I saw this pretty Vintage 21 edition – even the edges of the pages are oranges.

Several people commented on the title of this book (does anyone else have strangers commenting on commute reading material?), saying how strange it was. Obviously, oranges are not the only fruit in the whole universe but the title will make sense to you once you’ve read the book. Promise.

I’m not sure how much of this book is an autobiography and how much is fiction, so I won’t speculate. It is billed as a novel though on Goodreads. Jeanette has been adopted with the purpose of her mother bringing her up to become a missionary. Her mother is a devout religious lady, to the point where Jeanette doesn’t even attend school initially, spending all her time within the church community. As Jeanette grows up, she begins to explore her feelings of homosexuality, to the horror of her mother and the church. Initially, she and the other girl are separated; the second time, a form of exorcism is performed. Eventually Jeanette questions the wisdom of the church and wonders what life is like outside its confines.

As asides, there are fairy-tale type stories, which appear to link to the story’s morals. I lost interest in trying to figure these out, and simply either enjoyed the story at surface level or skimmed over them. These might put some readers off, but ignoring them doesn’t change the overall story.

There are strong religious overtones to this book (although which religion it is is not explained), so some may not enjoy this book. The storyline of growing up different is told in a funny and sad way- Jeanette wondering about her ‘demons’ (in fact, does she have any at all?) and the pain that she feels at the end of her relationship with Melanie.

Interesting and different. Worth a read.


3 thoughts on “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Add yours

  1. I really really like Oranges are not the Only Fruit, but strangely I basically don’t like anything else by Winterson! I know that another autobiography/semi-autobiography of her’s is coming out soon/has already come out, so I guess I’ll give that a go! I do think that religion is basically shown to be too limiting and strict in this book, so I kind of think it’s more suited to those who are religion sceptics… or maybe that’s just me!

  2. Winterson has actually released an autobiography recently so you can always read and compare. My sister is reading it and said there are lots of similarities, but enough differences too.

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