'This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God's elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts.
At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves.
Innovative, punchy and tender, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is a few days' ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.'
-The blurb from Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
You know when you get all the way to the end of a book, searching the last few pages for something to keep you wanting more but instead find yourself thinking... 'Is that it? Am I supposed to feel something?' This is one of those books. I had expected what the blurb said, a 'punchy and tender' story and I imagined it to be exactly the type of tale I love: coming-of-age, full of teenage angst and the exploring of sexuality, not to mention a healthy dose of rebellion and all the better if there's a bit of anti-religion stuff thrown in, too.
The story is written from the perspective of Northern teenager Jeanette who, I felt, was definitely just a sixteen year old girl telling a story. She seemed to lack depth somehow and skimmed over lots of details which would've made her memories, thoughts, feelings a lot more significant and juicy, especially as her character is potentially so rich - adopted, prospective missionary, lesbian. Being born a year after this book was published it's hard for me to reflect on this story in context, and while I am sure it was more groundbreaking at the time my over all feeling is disappoinment. It also takes itself a lot more seriously than it's trying to make out and the use of humour is good in places but overall the language is too flippant and Jeanette misses loads of opportunities to be brilliantly profound.
My favourite character was actually Jeanette's mother who was definitely the most interesting. She's unafraid of everything but God and is driven, mysterious and infuriating. I wanted to know more about her, I felt she was harbouring a much sexier past than she was prepared to let on and I'd like to read her diary.
Other than Jeanette's mum there wasn't enough intrigue in this story for me. I wasn't left guessing or wanting to read more as such; my hoping the story was going to get started soon is what kept the pages turning. But the thing I disliked the most about this book were the laborious fairy stories written alongside Jeanette's. I have to admit after a while I skipped through them, they were boring and I didn't understand the connection. Sir Pervical? Winnet? What? The last chapter was particularly annoying.
It's books like this that make me feel like a complete dimwit. Finding something so critically acclaimed such a chore to read definitely leads me to question my intelligence and I was very reluctant to review this book for fear of painting myself as a philistine. I just didn't get it, which is a shame because I'll never get that time back!
Image borrowed from amazon.co.uk