Tag Archives: Jeanette Winterson

The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson Title: The Gap of Time
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: Hogarth Shakespeare
ISBN: 978-0804141352
Genre: Literary Fiction, Adaptation,
Pages: 288
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

There are books or plays that you cannot imagine being retold and when they are, you cannot imagine anyone else retelling them but the author who gave it a new voice. I strongly go by this and more so after I finished reading “The Gap of Time” by Jeanette Winterson, a retelling of “The Winter’s Tale” by the Bard – the first in the project commissioned by Hogarth books under a new imprint “Hogarth Shakespeare” where all of Shakespeare’s plays will be retold by various authors.

“The Winter’s Tale” is one of Shakespeare’s last plays – exploring the theme of forgiveness more than jealousy over time. The plot is similar to “Othello”, but the story and the way it moves is very different and so is the conclusion. There is redemption. You actually need not read “The Winter’s Tale” to read “The Gap of Time” but do have some plot summary in your head before you embark on Winterson’s adaptation.

King Leontes of Sicily believes his wife Hermione is having an affair with his best friend, King Polixenes of Bohemia and that the child she is carrying is his. So he orders Polixenes to be murdered, the bastard girl child to be exposed to die and Hermione to be sent to prison, where it is believed that she also dies. The bastard girl child survives. Shakespeare has a change of heart so to say and must wait till the child Perdita – the lost one appears in Act II and everything then falls into place, including the broad themes of forgiveness, time and everything that is lost must be found.

Jeanette Winterson takes this plot and makes it her own. The setting is contemporary. The jealousies are the same. Polixenes is Xeno – a bisexual man who is in love with his best friend Leo and his wife MiMi. Leo suspects MiMi of having an affair with Xeno. Perdita is born. Leo orders his gardener to take her to Xeno. Things don’t go as planned. Perdita is adopted by a grieving man Shep and his son Clo. The plot unravels on Shep’s seventieth birthday and nothing is the same ever for the characters caught in the trap of time. They have to live and see what happens next and a lot does, which I will not give away in this review.

Winterson does a fantastic job of bringing “The Winter’s Tale” alive in 2008 – when the financial crisis was hitting the world and bringing it down. The theme of redemption is so strong running throughout that Winterson is the only one I know of who can breeze through it, without it becoming boring or monotonous at any point. There were lines I could not stop underlining or marking. The writing as usual leaves you speechless. It actually also surpasses time itself – just as her earlier works, where time is fluid, flexible and bends at will. “The Gap of Time” is such a worthy successor to “The Winter’s Tale”. You simply have to read it.

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387 Short Stories: Day 19: Story 19: Psalms by Jeanette Winterson

The World and Other Places Title: Psalms
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Taken from the Collection: The World and Other Places

Today’s story was a unique one – this one is written by one of my favourite writers, Jeanette Winterson. She has a fable like quality to her stories. They blend, they merge, they somehow surpass the human realm most of the time, or so it seems to the reader. Perhaps, with winter settling in and with the world taking on a new quality, I chose to read her story, “Psalms”.

“Psalms” is a story about a tortoise with the same name and it is about love and compassion of a tortoise. The story reminded me of her first book, “Oranges are not the Only Fruit” and somehow I could not tell why. The story is sparkling and bursting with energy and sometimes you wish she had written more about the tortoise. Read it and be amazed.

Book Review: Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson

Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson Title: Written on the Body
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9780679744474
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 190
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Books read at an impressionable age always leave you astounded. You cannot get more of them. You reread them at various stages in life and if it manages to evoke similar feelings in you, like the first time, then the book maybe is meant for you. Few books fit into this category. Fewer books make it there from the hundreds and thousands of books we read in a lifetime. It is almost like a personal treasure – this small collection that touches you every time you pick any book from it. For me, a lot of books fit into this, and “Written on the Body” by Jeanette Winterson is one of them.

I read this book for the first time when I was just about to come out to my family. It is one of those books which will always be close to my heart. It somehow gave me the required courage to do what I did. I don’t know how, but it did and at that time, it mattered the world to me. It made me want to go up to Ms. Winterson and let her know how much I loved her book and how grateful I was to her for writing it. Books do that. Any art form does. Anything that can manage to touch you to that extent.

“Written on the Body” is a love story as most of Ms. Winterson’s books. It is a meditation on love and desire. It is about how maybe love sustains itself no matter what the odds. It is everything to do with extraordinary passion and unrequited love at its worst. It is about the body – every single part of it, every pore of the skin, every surface that the beloved touches. The book is narrated by a nameless and genderless being about his or her love for a married woman named Louise. The book talks of their affair, their love, their desire and the betrayal by the body.

Winterson’s writing is beyond magical. She knows which nerve to touch on, which emotion to carry through, which rawness to portray that makes the reader wonder about his or her life. She speaks of how lovers know each other’s bodies. How they know every scar, every detail, every birthmark, every crevice of the body and how love gets to those places. The book is unusual in its narrative, however once you get the hang of it, you will not let go of it. The prose is lyricism at its best. Winterson’s expressions and her details about love and the lovers are not to be missed. The book is clever as well, but above all it is about the nature of love and how we do not give up on the lover, even if the love is doomed.

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Book Review: The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

Title: The Daylight Gate
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: Hammer Books
ISBN: 978-0-09-956185-9
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 194
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I have always loved what Winterson writes. I have read everything that she has written, including her book for children and her non-fictional pieces as well. To me, she is everything a writer should be, but then again that is purely a personal opinion. I was overjoyed on receiving a copy of her latest, “The Daylight Gate” and could not stop reading it.

Here is something about the book: The Daylight Gate is set in England in 1612, a time of turmoil for the country – both in terms of religion and faith. This is the time when James I was in reign. A time of Catholicism, accusation and torturous purgatory. Witch-hunting was at its peak. That is essentially at the heart of the book.

The book is centered on the infamous Pendle witches’ trial and its aftermath. The incidents of their trial are true and set in Lancaster, where it all began and ended. Winterson but obviously fictionalizes it a little. The story centers on Alice Nutter, one of the witches and how by discovering a crucifix, does the trial start and its consequences.

In her latest book, Winterson leaves it all to the reader to decide – Were the witches really that? Was it moral to do what was done? She presents a solid piece of work – combined with facts and fiction. The writing was in short chapters and the punch was immediate and direct at times. There were undertones of feminism but they ended almost as soon as they began, without overtaking the essence of the book.

The book is not a read for the squeamish. There are gory blood scenes which probably are required, considering the plot and the context. It is well-constructed and the atmosphere that is created is just right. A must read for people who want to read something different for sure.

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Book Review: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Norrmal? by Jeanette Winterson

Title: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-0-224-09345-3
Genre: Autobiography, Non-Fiction
Pages: 230
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

We think we know life and what it has in store for us. We like to predict. We feel safe in its outcome. We pattern it for ourselves and intend to stick to the pattern. And then there are some for who life doesn’t quite work out that way and they then chronicle stories we read and want more. Jeanette Winterson is one such writer, who I admire a lot and she has grown to be my favourite writer ever since I can remember. I vividly recall the first time I read, “Written on the Body” and re-read it several times, because I wanted to feel alive and it helped me feel that way. It is one of those books I will never ever forget. It had an impact and continues to.

“Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” was a question posed by Jeanette Winterson’s adoptive mother, when at sixteen Jeanette decided to leave home and study, and more so to be with her girlfriend, that her adoptive mother disapproved of. The title of her autobiography is the same.

I started reading this book two days ago and I have been taken on a rollercoaster ride with it. From Jeanette’s adoptive process to the conditions in which she was brought up – yearning for love, deprived of books (and reading them on the sly), left outside on the porch for doing or saying something inappropriate and not been given a chance to live to the freedom she snatched with both hands on leaving home, this book makes you wonder. A lot actually. About what home means and the sense of longing that prevails throughout life if you haven’t felt at home. The book towards the last few chapters also talks about Jeanette’s search of her real parents and the emotional ride through it all.

The fact that Mrs. Winterson (the foster mother), a woman of alarming eccentricity and neglectful cruelty believes that Jeanette was a child to whose crib Mrs. Winterson was led by the Devil and not God is enough to give the reader an inkling of the author’s growing years. Mrs. Winterson dreamed of the Apocalypse and the Second Coming, which Jeanette used as material for her first book, “Oranges are not the Only Fruit” beautifully. And then there were small joys – of the beach holiday she took with her parents, the kindness of the local librarian and of her English teacher Mrs. Ratlow, who took her in when she was left out, make you think about life and its adversities and the power of words that can make everything alright.

I could connect to this book on so many levels – from the time Ms. Winterson talks about books to love (about wanting to be love and not knowing how to love) to the confusion in her head to the clarity, I was enthralled by this book. It made me laugh. It made me cry. I will definitely go back to it again. Sink in its words. That’s the only way to love a book. Read it again. Read it the first time.

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