Novelist Jeanette Winterston was born in Manchester, England in 1959. She was adopted and brought up in Accrington, Lancashire, in the north of England. Her strict Pentecostal Evangelist upbringing provides the background to her acclaimed first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, published in 1985.

One of the most original voices in British fiction to emerge during the 1980s, Jeanette Winterson was named as one of the 20 'Best of Young British Writers' in a promotion run jointly between the literary magazine Granta and the Book Marketing Council. Over the last thirty years, Jeanette Winterson has worked across the genres of film, essay, novel, children's literature and short story. 

It is the formal indeterminacy and genre-bending of her individual works, for which she is best known. Oranges are Not the Only Fruit (1985), still the best known of Winterson’s works, sets the tone in this sense. Somewhere between autobiography and novel, her debut combines gritty realism, the bible, and elements of fantasy, fable and fairytale in a composite narrative that Winterson has called ‘fiction masquerading as memoir’.

In 2006, she was awarded an OBE, and in 2011, her memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? was published.

Jeanette Winterson, © 2019, British Council - Literature

Library resources

On the shelves:

Young adult fiction:


Study notes




The Daylight Gate:


The Gap of Time:

Oranges are not the only fruit:

Why be happy when you could be normal?


Web resources


Criticism and interpretation: