The shocking, heart-breaking - and often very funny - true story behind Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
In 1985 Jeanette Winterson’s first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published. It tells the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents. The girl is supposed to grow up and be a missionary. Instead she falls in love with a woman. Disaster.
Written when Jeanette was only twenty-five, her novel went on to win the Whitbread First Novel award, become an international bestseller and inspire an award-winning BBC television adaptation.
Oranges was semi-autobiographical. Mrs Winterson, a thwarted giantess, loomed over that novel and its author’s life. When Jeanette finally left her home, at sixteen, because she was in love with a woman, Mrs Winterson asked her: why be happy when you could be normal?
This book is the story of a life’s work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a tyrant in place of a mother, who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the duster drawer, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in an northern industrial town now changed beyond recognition, part of a community now vanished; about the Universe as a Cosmic Dustbin. It is the story of how the painful past Jeanette Winterson thought she had written over and repainted returned to haunt her later life, and sent her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her real mother. It is also a book about other people's stories, showing how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life-raft which supports us when we are sinking.
Funny, acute, fierce and celebratory, this is a tough-minded search for belonging, for love, an identity, a home, and a mother.
“Unforgettable… It’s the best book I have ever read about the cost of growing up.”
Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times
“A searingly felt and expressed autobiography…Funny and profoundly hopeful – a tale of survival”
Kate Hamer, Metro
“This book is good, sensible, beautiful company… Try this”
A.L. Kennedy, Week
“Jeanette Winterson’s writing is poetic, emotive and beautiful”
So Many Books So Little Time (blog)
“Incredibly moving and full of Winterson’s characteristic wit.”
“A memoir of a childhood shot through with fire-and-brimstone parenting, resilience and survival. The disturbing portrait of her adoptive mother is balanced by Winterson’s crisp wit.”
Juliet Nicolson, Week
“It is in laying the truth bare in this unflinchingly honest and gripping memoir that Winterson really seems to find self-acceptance, love and even happiness”
Yvonne Cassidy, The Gloss