The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

I’ll start off by saying that it has been quite a while since I posted anything and this is partly because I haven’t read anything in a while! Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I haven’t finished anything in a while. Before Christmas, I started reading A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James but I have just not been able to get through it. I thought it started out so promisingly and it had such good reviews but I found myself reading less and less of it until I finally ground to halt about half way through. I really wanted to like it but I actually just found it very slow. I’ve kept the bookmark in to keep my place but it has been put to the side for now…

Instead I decided to start the year with something fresh. The Gap of Time is one of the books I got for Christmas and I was excited to read it (in fact A Brief History was one of my Christmas presents from last year so it seems starting it took a long time too!) I had not read anything my Winterson before (although she has been on my TBR list for a long time) and I really liked the sound of it. 

The novel is actually a reimagining of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, which I hadn’t read before either. In Winterson’s version, Leo, a millionaire banker and entrepreneur, becomes mad with jealousy over his wife, the beautiful singer Mimi, who is heavily pregnant with their second child. Leo is convinced Mimi is having an affair with his best friend, Xeno. When the baby is born, Leo is convinced Xeno is the father of the child and so orders the her to be taken away. The baby, Perdita, is mistakenly abandoned in a BabyHatch at a hospital and rescued by Shep and Clo, a father and son from New Bohemia in America. Years later when Perdita is in her late teens, a chance encounter with Xeno’s actual son, leads to the life-changing discovery of where she really came from.

The story contains everything you would expect from Shakespeare – love, tragedy, remorse, regret, forgiveness and hope – but with a modern twist that addresses our current society. Leo’s obsession with masculinity and control is a huge part of his downfall – his inability to express his emotions and admit his vulnerabilities, even to those closest to him, creates a huge build up of rage that destroys his family and friendships. 

I loved the imagery of angels in the novel, and particularly how they appear in Xeno’s video game. The fallen angel or the dark angel seems an incredibly powerful symbol for Leo; he holds a lot of power and authority but he misuses it and is ultimately flawed.

Winterson addresses insitutalised racism through Shep and Clo, who never come forward about the crime they witness on the night they save Perdita for fear that they may be framed as the culprits. Their honesty and compassion throughout the rest of the novel pay testament to the hypocrisy of the situation they find themselves in. Winterson also touches on capitalism and through Pauline, who is one of my favourite characters in the book, she shows how corporations like Leo’s can profit from making it seem that they are charitable, while their business most certainly aren’t. This seems particularly relevant now, when it seems that many things, such as climate change or the environmental issues, are purposefully ignored or belittled because they stand in the way of making money.

The only character I felt a little disappointed with was Mimi. In the first half of the novel she is strong and independent but she completely disappears in the second half. This mirrors Shakespeare’s version but I would have liked to have seen more of the story from her angle. Leo and Xeno are explored well and despite the terrible acts Leo commits, I think you do feel sympathy for him – his destructiveness harms himself too. I understand that Mimi withdraws into herself, as I am sure you would do following the loss of two children and the break-up of a relationship, but I would have liked to understand her character a bit more, rather than viewing her from afar.

Overall I really enjoyed the novel and absolutely raced through it. I don’t think I’ve read a book so quickly in quite a while so it was as real pleasure to read something that hooked me so decisively.

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