4 October 2012

REVIEW: The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

 Jeanette Winterson is one of my favourite authors. However, The Daylight Gate felt a little thin. Yes, it is a novella, so it's intended to be a shorter work, but it felt stretched out. The Passion, one of her earlier novellas, which this piece is in some ways reminiscent of being also supernaturally themed, felt more like a larger work bulging against its length. The Daylight Gate feels at times like the opposite, that it should do more, go further.

Winterson has the profound ability to construct beautiful, evocative sentences which she does many times in The Daylight Gate. Rather it is the motivation and character development that felt undercooked. This is particularly pertinent as it is set during witch trials where accusations and motive are key. The novella rockets forwards through a series of tableaux-like chapters. May of these are only a 2-3 pages long so there is little time for the reader to get to grips with the characters before we move on. In fact the more successful chapters are longer, where character and motivation are lead out and where we are afforded the opportunity to form an emotional connection with the protagonist, Alice Nutter.

It's a shame, as the core setting of this book is ripe with possibility: 1612, the north of England under James 1, witches, Papists, heresy... all published under the banner of Hammer Horror. What I was left with was the sense of a missed opportunity. The stars had aligned but somehow the portents were missed.

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