“The Gap of Time” by Jeanette Winterson: Review

by krstaten

FullSizeRender.jpgHere’s a review I’ve been putting off, not because I don’t like the book but because I love it so much I don’t even know where to begin.

“The Gap of Time” by Jeanette Winterson is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale:” passionate, manic, heart-wrenching, and beautifully told. “The Winter’s Tale” isn’t mandatory reading in order to appreciate the story, but it helps–you’ll get some added understanding of the origin of the story, a few clever references and inside jokes, and a broader understanding of the story’s cultural context that spans centuries. So that’s your homework–go read Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” (I’m not talking SparkNotes, but feel free to use that as a guide), and then come back to this book.

Winterson has been one of my favorite authors for years, ever since I read her semi-autobiographical novel “Oranges are Not the Only Fruit” (which I also highly recommend). She has a way of writing that fluidly adapts to characters and situations, seamlessly switching voices to match every emotion. The energy that comes through in her writing makes it impossible not to be as emotionally invested as the characters themselves, and the way that skill is executed in “The Gap of Time” is breathtaking.

She captures Leontes’ manic energy and Hermione’s calm resolution in equally persuasive and drastically different voices. She captures all levels of love in prose that feels free and true, whether the kind of love that is driving, passionate, and jealous; the kind that is new, exciting, and unsettling; or the kind that is deep, rooted, and all-encompassing. She weaves Time into the story in passages that move and change you.

Winterson’s telling of the “The Winter’s Tale” is thought-provoking as well as beautiful, full of pithy statements that make you wonder what might be the real truth (if there is one) that the book is trying to convey. There are swift moments of philosophy, often contradictory to one another, that both give insight about the characters and give the reader pause.

In fact there’s so much to the prose that it hardly matters what the plot is, though the plot is moving and twisting and everything a modern telling of Shakespeare should be (seriously, at least read a summary of The Winter’s Tale, but really read the whole damn thing). I would caution in case this is a deal-breaker for anyone (because I know it is for some) that there are a couple fairly graphic sexual scenes in the book, which is probably to be expected in a story so driven by sexual jealousy.

Winterson adapts Shakespeare’s plot and characters seamlessly into a world more familiar (and thus in many ways more intense and unsettling) for the reader. With nods to the original story as well as a whole new world for the same themes and emotions to exist in, “The Gap of Time” brings money and technology into Shakespeare’s world of jealousy, friendship, love, and fear (with wit in equal measure in both tellings).

*I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.