Review: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson

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Rating – 3*

I have been looking forward to reading Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit for a very, very long time. It’s a cornerstone of LGBTQ+ fiction, and it is a book that I’ve had on my shelf for a good 3 or 4 years and just never been in the mood to pick up. I have held it on such a pedestal that on reading it, I’ve been a little let down.

As always with Winterson’s prose, it’s beautiful. But I’m glad this wasn’t my first foray in to her writing. While I found the semi-autobiographical nature of it interesting, and I enjoyed the main crux of the plot surrounding the coming-of-age of Jeanette, I did find it disjointing on the whole. There are several side stories within the book, which while beautifully written, distracted me from the main plot. They probably had purpose, in literary circles they’re probably genius 5 page long metaphors but to the average reader (me, hi) they were a bit off putting.

One thing I will say is I listened to this as an audiobook which Jeanette Winterson read – and it was glorious. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, authors reading their own works is a pleasure and something that should be done more often. I attribute a lot of my enjoyment of this book to the audiobook as I think were I reading a physical copy alone I may have actually put the book down.

On the whole, this was okay. I will definitely continue to read Winterson’s work, but so far this has been a low point for me. I’m glad I read it, of course I am, and I can understand on reading it how it has impacted so heavily on society. It just didn’t meet the expectations I had for it unfortunately.

 

Review: Kissing the Witch – Emma Donoghue

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Rating – 4*

What can I say about this collection other than I absolutely loved it? Some background first, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Emma Donoghue in that I either really love, or really dislike, her books. Room was amazing, so was one of her historical novels, then came along Frog Music which is one of the few books I have DNF’d over the years. This was definitely a hit, in spite of my trepidation going in to it.

Essentially this is a collection of fairy tale retellings – people like Kirsty Logan have cited it as a source of inspiration for their work. High praise like that really puts a book on a pedestal, but on reading it I fully understand why it is so highly regarded. All of the stories in this book, or rather snippets in to the characters lives, twist the well known version of the story in to feminist, slightly queer retellings which still (somehow) keep the character of the original. How Donoghue worked all of the fairy tales in to the same world, and had them seamlessly flow in to each other was genius and it made the collection flow absolutely perfectly.

Each tale is the story of a female character before they became the trope in the original fairy tale – their story before they were witches, stepmothers, crones or spinsters; their stories of being girls, sisters and daughters. Each story flows in to the next by the protagonist simply asking who they were, and we go through generations of women, and ending with the origin of the kiss-seeking witch.

Frankly, this collection is genius – and having read a lot of works which have been influenced by it, I can now see the influence it has had on some of my favourite authors (particularly Kirsty Logan’s A Portable Shelter). It is definitely up there with my favourite short story collections, and one I will be reading again in the future for certain.

I listened to this as an audiobook and can’t recommend it highly enough – it was narrated beautifully and while it was the same narrator for each story, every character had their own voice, it wasn’t flat or monotone like a lot of short story collections, or multiple personality audiobooks suffer with!

Identity Crisis?|| Blogmas Day 15

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So today it’s a bit of a late one, and not really book-oriented, because I’m not having the best of days.

The last few days I’ve definitely been having a bit of a wobble (primarily due to my GP not seeing my anti-depressants as an urgent prescription and thinking it acceptable to make me go 3 days without them. They still haven’t done the prescription, but I have enough for a week from the pharmacy, and I can kick up a fuss on Monday if I still don’t have my repeat). However, that isn’t what I want to talk about today (as the rainbow in the header may indicate).

The other week, while on holiday, my friend made an offhand comment about how her dad misunderstood something I put on facebook (he misunderstood my “omg I’m going to be a bridesmaid” post as “omg I’m getting married”). And that she was proud of him because “He congratulated you even though if you were getting married, we all know it’d be to a woman.”

Thinking about it, I realised I’ve never actually ‘come out’. I’ve never felt the need to. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my sexuality, I know I prefer women, I just never felt the need to actually go and label myself. But do I need to tell my friends I’m gay? (or more gay than straight, or as I told my mother when I was all of 12 years old “not as straight as a ruler”).

I feel like I’ve lied to them, which is stupid because when I started uni and met them I never hid myself away. I was always 100% me. I make jokes about myself like “Doc Martens and a plaid shirt, you must be a lesbian!” at least twice a month, I frequently make references to particularly nice looking women, rant about the heteronormativity of the institution of marriage, talk very passionately about my favourite fictional lesbians, and regularly update them on LGBTQ+ news.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly think I’m hiding in Narnia.

I told my mum I was (at the very least) bisexual when I was 12 – as I said above. It was a result of a pretty problematic set of circumstances as to why, involving a much older girl taking advantage of me (and it wasn’t just me, as I came to find out). My parents were cool with it, never told me it was just a phase or any of those cliche things. From what I recall, my actual ‘coming out experience’ with my parents was positive – it was so long ago, and the circumstances around it are those I want to forget, meaning I have sort of blurred it in my head.

But, 12 years on, and with a whole new set of friends around me do I actually need to do the whole coming out thing with the words “hey, guess what, I’m gay(ish)?” or is what I’ve already done – just being me, hella gay, and rocking it – enough?

So, if anyone ever wondered what going 3 days without antidepressants did to you, it is this. It makes you unable to sleep and have anxiety attacks over things people probably already know. It makes you question your whole identity, bring up trauma you thought was long behind you and question your entire existence.

Thank goodness for pharmacists and emergency prescriptions.