Review: ‘Rubyfruit Jungle’ by Rita Mae Brown

I recently put together a great, diverse list of Pride reads for this June, including this book. Even though we’re coming to the end of June now, it’s always great to diversify your reading habits- and this book is a great choice for celebrating the LGBTQ+ community of the past all year round.

‘Rubyfruit Jungle’ is about a young girl, Molly, growing up as the adopted daughter of a large, poor American family during the 1950s.

This book was split into 4 parts. The first part starts with Molly as a young school girl. Bright but downtrodden by her harsh mother, Molly helps out her poor family but dreams of one day escaping to college. Unlike other girls in her town, Molly is “boy-ish”, preferring to work in the fields and play with her “cousin” Leroy than following the prim and ladylike standards encouraged by her mother.

Part 2 follows Molly’s high school days, discussing her first sexual experiences as she begins to realise she enjoys sleeping with girls more than boys. I liked how headstrong Molly was at this stage in the book, as she was happy to sleep with whom she pleased- boy or girl- without confining her sexuality to a specific label.

I thought the book was very modern in its portrayal of Molly’s attitude towards her sexuality, and instead of caring what others thought she just got on with what she wanted to do. It was very refreshing!

Parts 3 and 4 of the book looked at Molly’s move to college- first in Florida, and finally her move to New York. Here, Molly really starts to understand her sexuality, and I enjoyed reading about her various exploits as she finds out what kind of woman she is- and what kind of woman she wants to be with.

She meets colourful and lively characters in New York, going to bars with movie stars, and starting a relationship with a married woman.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked the open discussion of female sexuality, and I thought it was refreshing to understand Molly’s journey as she moved away from her home town. It was also interesting to see the judgement towards woman such as Molly, and I liked her reaction to those who judged her choices.

I also liked the way this book was written. It was blunt and honest, and very easy to read. As an autobiographical novel about Rita Mae Brown’s experiences, I enjoyed this book as a coming-of-age journey of Molly’s sexuality.

For me, this book spent a little too much time on the younger years of Molly’s life. I liked understanding her roots, and it was important to see the fractious relationship between herself and her mother in order to understand their relationship in the later parts of this book.

However, I would have enjoyed more of the book to be about her time in high-school and college, as these were the parts I liked most.

I also felt like the book didn’t quite feel succinct. Characters and storylines were introduced but then not followed up, and it felt more like a series of experiences in a person’s life, as opposed to a succinct, whole book.

While I enjoyed the vibrant and interesting characters, the book felt like it could have benefited from some editing. The author also offered very little information about the various characters, so I occasionally got confused about what was going on.

Nevertheless, this is an important piece of lesbian fiction, and a great reading choice this June.

Did you enjoy my review of ‘Rubyfruit Jungle’? Do you fancy picking up a copy this Pride month? Do you have any other reading recommendations?

Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

Happy reading x

Picture credits here

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