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Jeanette Winterson Biography

(1959– ), Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Boating for Beginners, The Passion, Sexing the Cherry

feminist woman novel narrator

British novelist, born in Lancashire, educated at Oxford University. Her upbringing as a Pentecostal Evangelist was the subject of her first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985; later adapted for BBC television) which also dealt with the narrator's growing awareness of her lesbianism with a certain wry humour. Boating for Beginners (1985), a feminist reworking of the biblical story of the Deluge, was followed by The Passion (1987), set in eighteenth-century France, which tells the story of Henri, a young French peasant who becomes chef to the Emperor Napoleon and loses his heart to Villanelle, a beautiful Venetian girl born with webbed feet, who is in love with another woman. Sexing the Cherry (1989) also offered feminist reinterpretations of historical events, in its account of the Great Fire of 1666. The novel includes such fantastic figures as the Dog Woman, a man-eating giantess who lives on the banks of the Thames, as well as figures from fairytale and myth. Winterson has developed her own version of magic realism in which she deals with contemporary feminist themes. Written on the Body (1992) deals with a love affair between the narrator (whose gender is not specified) and a married woman who is dying of leukaemia. Art and Lies (1994) consists of three linked narratives, about ‘Sappho’, the lesbian poet, ‘Picasso’—not the painter but an abused woman—and ‘Handel’, a male figure epitomizing inadequacy.

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