In a brief amount of time the British writer Jeanette Winterson established a special place for herself in the literary community. Published in fourteen languages, her work early began to meet with popular and critical succes. After receiving a degree in English from Oxford University, she set out to look for editorial jobs but met with no success. At an interview for one such job, she began telling her interviewer stories about her life. The prospective employer encouraged her to write them down, and the result was her first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.
Winterson herself remains elusive as to the exact details of her own life, but she refers to Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit as “semi-autobiographical.” The novel details a childhood spent in a Pentecostal community with a domineering and strictly religious mother. Throughout her youth, the protagonist, aptly named “Jeanette,” nurtured her skills as a preacher and a potential missionary. However, Jeanette leaves the church and is kicked out of her home when both the congregation she had considered her extended family and her mother reject her upon discovering she is a lesbian. The novel won the prestigious Whitbread First Novel Award and was later made into a miniseries for the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit established Winterson as a witty commentator on accepted social standards. Even she expresses surprise that her novels, which question social perspectives that view heterosexuality and religion as undeniable “truths,” could be so popular. Using an unconventional novel structure characterized by a collage of reinterpreted fairy tales, parables, and other metaphorical narratives that interrupt the central story, Winterson unveils a social reality rooted in spiritual hypocrisy and, ultimately, patriarchy.
Boating for Beginners, a comical retelling of the story of Noah and the ark with a contemporary consciousness, displays Winterson’s ability to use humor to explore hypocrisy in faith. Her third novel, The Passion, won the 1987 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for fiction, receiving international acclaim for its unique...
(The entire section is 899 words.)