Tuesday, 10 February 2015

'Holy water, let us wander...'

Review: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

This is a book that I've had to read for my degree course.  so I didn't go into it expecting to like it. Funny, isn't it, how now I think I won't like a book just because I'm expected to discuss it. There seems to be an irony there. But this one was a surprise- I loved it, and it shocked me, and I loved it. 

Oranges is Winterson's coming of age novel-memoir, which recounts her from childhood to early childhood. Through the somewhat bonkers narration, which switches from the story to fables to quotes from other works, Winterson brilliantly portrays the hypocrisies of the church, and also the solace that can be found there. More importantly, she honestly portrays the problems faced by young lesbians, particularly relating to religion. 

Nothing about this book is conventional. It's not as crazy as I was expecting due to it's representation- it has a coherent story and a very strong narrative voice- but it's still strange; the narrator has a very specific voice that seems on one hand stilted and on the other thought provoking and funny. It does not explicitly tackle the ideas of lesbianism but rather tackles it through the religious doctrine or the eyes of the religious female; it is mentioned and defined through what the others think rather than what anyone clearly states. It is not a deep psychological excavation into what it means to be a lesbian, so if you're looking for that kind of close analysis, it's not here. But it is honest. 

This book was at times hilarious. It had me snorting with laughter on my sofa. The narration combined with the situations at times just seemed so surreal, and I enjoyed this more comedic take on her harsh life. The characters are so vivid and hilarious, creating a wonderful, vibrant cast. 

And of course, I agree with this quote:
“In the library I felt better, words you could trust and look at till you understood them, they couldn't change half way through a sentence like people, so it was easier to spot a lie.” Who doesn't prefer books to people? 

What is it about? Growing up, becoming yourself, and finding out how this self is accepted in society. 
Would I recommend? Yes, definitely. It's a quick, enjoyable read but one with real gravitas. 

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