Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
First edition
AuthorJeanette Winterson
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherPandora Press
Publication date
21 March 1985
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Followed byBoating for Beginners 

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a novel by Jeanette Winterson published in 1985 by Pandora Press. It is a coming-of-age story about a lesbian who grows up in an English Pentecostal community. Key themes of the book include transition from youth to adulthood, complex family relationships, same-sex relationships, organised religion and the concept of faith.

It has been included on both GCSE and A-Level reading lists for education in England and Wales,[1] and was adapted by Winterson into a BAFTA-winning 1990 BBC television drama serial of the same name.


The book is semi-autobiographical and is based on Winterson's life growing up in Accrington, Lancashire. "I wrote about some of these things in Oranges, and when it was published, my mother sent me a furious note".[2] A parallel non-fictional account of her life at this time is given in her 2011 memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?[3] Although the protagonist of Oranges bears the author's first name, John Mullan has argued that it is neither an autobiography nor a memoir, but a Künstlerroman.[4]


The main character is a young girl named Jeanette, who is adopted by evangelists from the Elim Pentecostal Church. She believes she is destined to become a missionary. The book depicts religious enthusiasm as an exploration of the power of love. As an adolescent, Jeanette finds herself attracted to another girl, and her mother's group of religious friends subject her and her partner to exorcisms.[5]

Allusions to other works[edit]

The novel is divided into eight sections, each of which is named after one of the first eight books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth.)[6] Each chapter often contains references and allusions to their corresponding book in the Bible.

The novel also contains references to numerous other literary works, historical figures and aspects of popular culture:

The novel is interspersed with short stories that bear many resemblances to (and draw influences from) traditional Biblical stories of the Old Testament, tales of Arthurian Legend (specifically related to Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur) and other popular fairy tales.


The novel won Winterson the Whitbread Award for a First Novel in 1985.

Although it is sometimes referred to as a "lesbian novel",[7] Winterson has objected to this label, arguing, "I've never understood why straight fiction is supposed to be for everyone, but anything with a gay character or that includes gay experience is only for queers".[5]


A television adaptation of the book was made and aired by the BBC in 1990, starring Charlotte Coleman and Geraldine McEwan, which won the Prix Italia in 1991.[8]

The book was released on cassette by BBC Audiobooks in 1990, also read by Coleman.[9]

A two-part dramatisation, adapted by Winterson and starring Lesley Sharp, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in April 2016.[10]


The novel has been included on both GCSE and A-Level reading lists for education in England and Wales, including the OCR English Literature A-Level module "Literature Post-1900".[1]


  1. ^ a b 68995-unit-f662-literature-post-1900-coursework-guidance
  2. ^ Jeanette Winterson.'Why be Happy When You could be normal.'ISBN 9780099556091
  3. ^ Brightwell, Laura (30 July 2012). "Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (review)". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  4. ^ 'True stories', John Mullan, The Guardian, 27 October 2007.
  5. ^ a b Winterson, Jeanette. "Interview on Jeanette Winterson's official site". Archived from the original on 31 August 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2010.
  6. ^ "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit: The Bible". 20 October 2007.
  7. ^ Beirne, Rebecca (2008). Lesbians in television and text after the millennium. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 39. ISBN 978-0230606746.
  8. ^ Prix Italia, Winners 1949 - 2010, RAI Archived 2013-10-22 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ ISBN 978-0-563-41070-6
  10. ^ "Radio 4 adaptation". Retrieved 26 December 2016.

Further reading[edit]