Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

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A simple and enjoyable, yet challenging and thought-provoking novel on growing up in an evangelical Church community and discovering one’s true self. Winterson weaves complex ideas and heavy emotions into a simple yet at times fragmentary and experimental novel.

Jeanette was adopted as young age, and poised like Christ to save the world through her future missionary work. However, as she grows older, she discovers that the battle she must fight is not against the sinners ‘out there’ but within her own home and church, and ultimately she must decide to accept herself for who she is or remain in the rigid church community. The novel is laced with humour and sweetness, as well as interesting ideas.

However, I do wish that Jeanette’s lovers were better developed, but I understand the focus of the book was about her, her mother and the church, and the lovers played mainly a supporting role. I cannot help but feel the book is quite simply sometimes, perhaps it is the prose or the oldness of my copy. The ending did not meet my expectations and at times I disliked the fragmentary and brief nature of the novel. However, I still enjoyed reading the novel as a whole.

Review: Tess of the D’Urbevilles

Neither fully a woman, nor aware of the dangers of the outside world, Tess is driven by her family’s poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D’Urbevilles. However, her ‘cousin’ Alec is more interested in her body than her desperate poverty. Tess is raped. Despite Tess’ moral purity, she is stained by her sexual impurity, through no fault of her own. Tess struggles against social convention and finds comfort in Angel- a son of a clergyman who preaches against tradition, yet his own ideals of Tess as a perfect woman, a pure “daughter of nature”, will endanger their relationship, and Tess must decide whether or not to reveal her unfortunate past.

Tess of the D’Urbevilles is ultimately s “tragedy of those who escaped the imprisonment of the established convention”, as D.H Lawrence put it. Hardy portrays the Victorian convention that condemns Tess to isolation and hardship as unnatural, and the desire between two loving individuals as natural. Hardy challenges the Victorian idea of “purity” in a woman, he illustrates that purity is found not in the outcome- her sexual purity, but in the intention of a woman- her moral integrity. By narrating the life and exploring the psychology of an individual in detail, Hardy uses a microcosm of society  to comment on the cruelty of a godless world- for Tess is a tragedy which cannot be fixed by divine power-, and the forces of the fates- “heredity and environment, character and society” on the destiny of the individual.

Hardy’s long and beautiful prose describes the changing landscape of the rural community and the unstoppable arrival of modernity. He captures a sympathetic photograph of rural life, the hardships and joys of rural folk, as well as the dying rural traditions. The decline of old rural life is paralleled with the decline of Tess’ ancient D’Urbeville family and Tess as an individual, which makes Tess both a personal and greater social tragedy.

Tess is a great read for anyone who enjoys Victorian literature, beautiful descriptions of landscapes, and bleak tragedies.

Review: Gender: In World Perspective

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Connell and Pearse’s Gender is a concise and comprehensive introduction to the concept of gender and its practical implications. The authors are inclusive and do not fail to mention perspective from feminist scholars from around the world, throughout different periods of history.

The authors begin with examples of gender in everyday culture, special events and statistics on the gender pay gap, before moving onto case studies on gender from 5 continents, some historical studies. These studies are useful as they support and help the reader realise Connell’s various arguments. One case study illustrates that gender has been changing and not fixed throughout different periods of history, for example Mpondo migrant workers in South Africa, definition of “manhood” was once associated with being wise and running a self-sufficient household, which meant women could attain “manhood”, however later economic and historical developments influenced the definition to become physical aggression and toughness.

Next the Connell covers topics such as the relationship between body and gender, a brief history of gender theory, the multiple dimensions of gender and their interaction, and the process in which gender develops within a person, before proceeding to discuss how gender relates to global issues, such as the environment, global power structures and the economy. Connell is a great debater and she takes you from one theory to the next, with energy and strong criticism, before moving on to her proposed theory or solution.

Finally, Connell and Pearse’s Gender is a summary. And as a summary, it benefits from being concise and giving a comprehensive overview of a wide-range of topics and a wide range of perspectives, which makes it a great introduction. As a summary it also suffers from being too concise at times and failing to explain certain concepts clearly (especially post-modern or economic concepts, which an ordinary reader may not be familiar with, which can lead to confusion) or moving on without a definite conclusion, at times. However, the comprehensiveness and diversity of the work allows for the work’s sometimes laconic nature to be forgiven and overlooked, especially if you are willing to spend a few minutes researching those terms.

The broad but also academic approach would make this useful for students interested in reading academically about gender, but also anyone with an interest in gender.

Extra: there are plenty of summaries and shout-outs to other authors and their great works included in gender, which would probably make a great reading list on gender and gender theory, if that’s your cup of tea!

Apologies from the switches between “authors” and “Connell”, since the authorship of the work isn’t so clear to me.

(I would have preferred to have named this “Gender: In World Perspective, a Review”, but anyway, before my more style-infatuated side of me gets control…)