The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s “late plays.” It tells the story of a king whose jealousy results in the banishment of his baby daughter and the death of his beautiful wife. His daughter is found and brought up by a shepherd on the Bohemian coast, but through a series of extraordinary events, father and daughter, and eventually mother too, are reunited.
In The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson’s cover version of The Winter’s Tale, we move from London, a city reeling after the 2008 financial crisis, to a storm-ravaged American city called New Bohemia. Her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, technology and the elliptical nature of time. Written with energy and wit, this is a story of the consuming power of jealousy on the one hand, and redemption and the enduring love of a lost child on the other.
Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time is the first book to be released in the new Hogarth Shakespeare series, and as the synopsis indicates it’s a retelling (or “cover version”) of the play The Winter’s Tale. I’m a huge Shakespeare fan and have read The Winter’s Tale, and throughly enjoyed the way that Winterson handled the play in her novel.
Now, I have to say, I don’t think the characters are as fleshed out as they could be; they’re definitely based heavily off of the characters in the play, and have much of the same (if not all of the same, in some instances) characteristics and behaviours as their counterparts do from the original source. I would have liked to have seen a bit more uniqueness brought to the table with the story, and would have liked to have seen Winterson individualize the characters a bit more.
That said, I loved the writing. It was beautifully told (save for some of Leo’s inner monologues near the beginning of the novel, which was blunt and crude and echoed quite strongly the type of character he was meant to portray), and I found myself rereading sentences and passages just to let the language sink in and take over me. Winterson has a fantastic, poetic way with words, as anyone who has read her previous novels would know.
Though I felt that the characters could have been developed more, I did like some of them quite a bit. I liked Perdita and her relationship with Clo and Shep the best. I would have loved to have seen the jazz background emphasized a bit more, but I loved that element to her character. I also loved Pauline, who had some hilarious dialogue quips between her and Leo.
Winterson captured the thematic overtones of forgiveness and present (or future) generations having to live with the past generation’s mistakes, but also move forward from them, as shown in the original text well. It’s clearly portrayed what inspiration she drew from the text, and how much it meant to her, which was lovely seeing.
Overall, I enjoyed The Gap of Time. It’s not my favourite Winterson, but it’s a wonderful retelling of a play that I love, and I’m so excited to see what’s to come in this series. It’s a great way to introduce Shakespeare’s work to those who may feel a bit intimidated by the bard, and will hopefully inspire those readers to go and read the original source material as soon as they finish the retelling.
Thank you to Blogging for Books, who were kind enough to send me the novel to read. (And, of course, per FTC guidelines, I was not paid for this review!)
Until next time, happy reading!