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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit  
First edition
Author Jeanette Winterson
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Semi-autobiographical novel
Publisher Pandora Press
Publication date 21 March 1985
Media type Print (Paperback)
ISBN 0-8021-3516-1
OCLC Number 15792328
Followed by Boating for Beginners

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a novel by Jeanette Winterson published in 1985, which she subsequently adapted into a BBC television drama. It is a bildungsroman about a lesbian girl who grows up in a religious splinter community.



The main character is a young girl named Jeanette, who is adopted by evangelists. 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 experiences lesbian tendencies and her mother's group of religious friends subject her and her partner to exorcisms.[1]


The book and subsequent BBC mini series, adapted by Winterson, is believed to be semi-autobiographical and is generally based on Winterson's life in Accrington, Lancashire, after moving from her birth town Manchester. The book was written many years after any actual events as Winterson moved to her present location London.


  • The novel won Winterson the Whitbread Award for a First Novel in 1985.
  • Jeanette Winterson does not consider this novel to be a lesbian novel, 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.'.[2]
  • Although the protagonist bears the author's first name, John Mullan has argued that it is neither an autobiography nor a memoir, but a novel.[3]
  • The book is now popular in schools, most often as part of an A-level literature course. There is a volume in the York Notes Advanced series by Kathryn Simpson, aimed at English Literature students. It was released on cassette by BBC Audiobooks, read by Charlotte Coleman. A television adaptation of the book was made and aired by the BBC in 1990.
  • Both John Bayley and Muriel Spark have praised the novel.[4]


  1. ^ Winterson, Jeanette. "Jeanette Winterson's official site". Retrieved September 26 2006.  
  2. ^ Interview from Jeanette Winterson's official website
  3. ^ 'True stories', John Mullan, The Guardian, 27 October 2007, [1]
  4. ^ Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, London:Vintage, 2001, backcover

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