Winterson, Jeanette (1959- ), British novelist, best known for the experimental and sometimes controversial ways in which her fiction explores such issues as gender roles and sexual orientation. Winterson was born in Manchester, England, and adopted by religious parents who prepared her to become a preacher. A lesbian affair at the age of 15, however, estranged her from her family, and she left home. Working in various jobs, she continued her education, eventually studying English at Saint Catharine's College at the University of Oxford from 1978 until 1981, when she received her M.A. degree. She then worked at the Roundhouse Theatre in London, and thereafter in publishing until 1987, when she became a full-time writer.
Winterson's first novel, "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit" (1985), was mainly autobiographical, chronicling the struggles of a young lesbian girl against a domineering mother and the strictures of conditioning for evangelical service. It won Britain's Whitbread Award for a first novel in 1985, and a successful television serialization was broadcast in 1990.
Boating for Beginners (1985) is a satirical retelling of the biblical Noah's Ark story, and The Passion (1987) juxtaposes the tale of a French peasant who is chef to Napoleon I with that of a girl from a fishing community in Venice, Italy. Sexing the Cherry (1989) sets two 17th-century characters against modern counterparts, and marks a decisive shift in Winterson's style toward a fractured and incantatory rhetoric. Her next book, Written on the Body (1992), charts a love triangle, in which the gender of the main character is not specified. Art & Lies (1994) portrays a gathering between characters called Handel, Sappho, and Picasso, with no plot and little sense of time or place. Winterson's first collection of short stories, The World and Other Places, was published in 1999.