Review: The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

by Joli

Like Shakespeare’s works, I thought this was a real work of art. I loved the way Winterson reimagines The Winter’s Tale, and/but the theme of time is…for lack of a better word, intense.

If I were to compare The Gap of Time to a painting, I’d definitely choose a more impressionistic work. Like Shakespeare, it’s a bit of a challenge to get through at points due to thematic passages that are beautiful yet quite literary and abstract.

Having not read The Winter’s Tale before, I felt a little lost in the twisted and complicated story at points. Luckily, Winterson included a handy quick review of the play in the beginning of her novel. Being able to reference that throughout the story was really helpful.

Let’s see if I can explain this in a coherent fashion. So, our story starts when a man finds a baby in a “baby hatch,” a place hospitals have in the story for leaving unwanted babies. He finds her under very strange circumstances, when he sees a man being beaten in a rainstorm in the street. He decides to keep the baby.

You then travel to London, where a guy named Leo is feeling betrayed by his wife and best friend, whom he wrongly decides are having an affair. His wife is pregnant, and he believes the baby is his best friend’s. He goes a bit nuts, steals the baby and hires a guy to bring her to the States, where his best friend has moved recently.

Seventeen years later, we meet the teenage version of the adopted baby from the baby hatch – Perdita. Perdita is the child of Leo, and the man that was hired to bring her to the States is the man that was killed in the street, but not before putting her safely in the baby hatch.

Perdita is falling in love, and it’s beautiful. Little does she know, her lover is actually the son of her father’s best friend. Could they be related? Is she Leo’s daughter, or the best friend’s daughter?

If you know the play, then you know how this one ends. It’s not much of a giveaway, since the play is recounted for you in the beginning of the novel. You know how the story is going to turn out, yet it’s still captivating! As I mentioned above, though, Winterson’s prose, while beautiful, required rereading passages sometimes to make sure I completely grasped the gravity of them, and enjoyed the abstract-ness thoroughly.

For instance, here’s one near the end:

And the story fell out stone by stone, shining and held, the way time is held in a diamond, the way the light is held in each stone. And stones speak, and what was silent opens its mouth to tell a story and the story is set in stone to break the stone. What happened happened.

But.

The past is a grenade the explodes when thrown.

Overall, I thought Winterson did a great job of turning an iconic work into a modern-day novel. I enjoyed her interjections, like the one above. However, I also really had to be in the right frame of mind to read this one. You can see how sitting down with it for a fun, summery read wouldn’t always work. I love that kind of thing, though – as an English degree holder, I miss reading these intellectually stimulating books and talking about the themes with my peers.

As for the theme of time, Winterson was referring to it so often by the end of the novel that I started thinking “yeah, yeah, I know, time.” It was a little bit of a hit-you-over-the-head kind of theme.

There’s a treat at the end, when Winterson comes in in her own voice and talks about the play. It’s a little weird, but I think it fits.

Overall, I’ll give this one a solid 3.5. I’m intrigued by Winterson – I’ve read one of her other novels, but it was years ago in college. I’d like to add her to my TBR list!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

About Jeanette Winterson

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