I was invited to join a meetup group, a read group for lesbian literature. I accepted the invitation and waited to hear what the first book chosen would be. As luck would have it, the first book chosen is by one of my favorite writers. (Rob woud say that most of my favorite writers are lesbians but he exaggerates!) They chose Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Ony Fruit, her first novel.
I had read another coming of age lesbian novel last year so I was excited that not only would I get to read another but I would get to read Winterson again. I even invited three people whom I thought might be interested in joining me in the writing group. Two of the three expressed interest but it remains to be seen if any will actually follow through.
That said, I ordered the book and read it. It arrived yesterday so clearly it is an easy read. I anticipated that this would not be one of my preferred Winterson books. I was right. Because this was her first book, many of the qualities which I love about her later works are evident but not powerful. You can definitely see how she has progresssed as an artist.
In other words, this was not one of my favorites. It is good. Not Winterson good. But definitely better than most first novels. However, I was uncomfortable with one aspect. The parents of the protagonist are fundamental Christians. When their daughter starts disdovering her own sexuality, their response is not tolerant. In fact, it borders on the extreme. Whatever redemption or reconciliation is implied, I wish that parents who don't understand their homosexual children in novels didn't always have to be Christian. Yes, I realize I haven't read every coming-of-age lesbian (or homosexual) novel out there so I am basing this on the few I have read but still . . . it would be nice to have parents who are reasonably conflicted but struggle to understand and respec their children in spite of their own expectations of who and what their children ought to be.
Still, better than most fiction out there. Far better than most of the fiction that makes it to the best seller lists.