|More than 25 years ago as a young, debut author Jeanette Winterson seized the limelight - and Britain's major first novel award - with Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, a scarifying but also comic story of a girl adopted by a strict, working-class Pentecostal Christian couple in England's industrial north. Some 18 books and - for the author - half a lifetime later, comes the non-fiction version of that same truly bizarre childhood plus, what happened next. It's called Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Jennifer Byrne talked to Winterson at the Sydney Writers' Festival while she was in Australia to promote her latest book.
Growing up in Manchester there were only six books in her home, one being the Bible, and her mother forbade her to read fiction, so Winterson secretly borrowed books from her local library. At 16 she left home after falling in love with a woman, and lived in her car before lodging at her English teacher's home. Despite the odds she went on to gain a place at Oxford University to read English.
Winterson was only 24 when her semi-autobiographical debut novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit was published and won the Whitbread First Novel Award. The later TV adaptation of the novel for BBC won a BAFTA for Best Drama Series/Serial in 1990. In 2006, Winterson was awarded an OBE for services to literature - she has now written numerous novels including The Passion (1987), Sexing The Cherry (1989) and Lighthousekeeping (2004).
Jennifer Byrne Presents is produced by ABC TV. Series Producer: Brendan Walls; Executive Producer: Kath Earle; Head of Arts: Katrina Sedgwick.