Oranges is a coming-of-age story about a lesbian girl who grows up in a small-town English Pentecostal community. She is brought up by an overly religious God-fearing mother. Jeanette is convinced her destiny is to become a missionary, but then one day she falls for another girl. While Jeanette is coming to terms with her preference for her own sex, she and her partner are found out and subjected to exorcisms by the religious community. In spite of being subjected to public humiliation, considered possessed, and being treated like an outcast she grows up to define her relationship with God on her own terms.
Whether this is autobiographical to any degree or just a literary device Oranges is tragic, comic, and clever. Winterson examines themes like organized religion, difficult family relationships, same-sex relationships, and the transition from youth to adulthood.
The book is divided into 8 chapters each named after the first eight books in the Old Testament and includes references from the corresponding Biblical books. The final chapter corresponds to the book of Ruth. This is clever because the lesson in Ruth is that humans naturally find love and family connections wherever they are, irrespective of ethnicity and faith. The main plot is clear and interspersed with short stories that seem inspired by Fairy Tales and Biblical stories.
It was a quirky heartfelt story that I breezed through in two days.
🕵 How I Discovered It
I came to Winterson to read 12 bytes. But I ended up picking up Oranges.
✍️ My Favorite Quotes
“Everyone thinks their own situation most tragic. I am no exception.”
“When my mother heard about this, she was furious, and crossed Nellie off her prayer list. My dad put her on his instead, so she didn’t miss out.”
“I knew my mother hoped I would blame myself, but I didn’t. I knew now where the blame lay. If there’s such a thing as spiritual adultery, my mother was a whore.”
“Going back after a long time will make you mad, because the people you left behind do not like to think of you changed, will treat you as they always did, accuse you of being indifferent, when you are only different.”
“It’s a visitor’s privilege to be foolish.”
“I miss God. I miss the company of someone utterly loyal.”
“The unknownness of my needs frightens me. I do not know how huge they are, or how high they are, I only know that they are not being met.”
“By betrayal, I mean promising to be on your side, then being on somebody else’s.”
“I seemed to have run in a great circle, and met myself again on the starting line.”